Flight 370 victims’ families angry, resigned as search ends

FILE - In this March 22, 2014 file photo, flight officer Rayan Gharazeddine scans the water in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia from a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion during a search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. A team of international investigators hunting for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 it has concluded the plane is unlikely to be found in a stretch of the Indian Ocean search crews have been combing for two years, and may instead have crashed in an area farther to the north. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

BEIJING (AP) — K.S. Narendran never boards a flight without feeling terror. And he doesn’t expect that to change without answers to what happened to the plane carrying his wife three years ago.

His wife, Chandrika Sharma, was one of the 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean after veering far off course on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. After a fruitless search, the governments of Australia, China and Malaysia announced Tuesday that they were suspending their efforts.

Some relatives of Flight 370’s passengers expressed anger, disappointment and a resolve to press authorities to resume their efforts and find out exactly what happened. Others said they understood that the search — the most expensive of its kind in aviation history — had to come to an end.

“There’s not a day that passes without spending significant amount of time thinking about what the state of the search might be,” Narendran said Tuesday in a phone interview. “While it’s probable that we’ll never see our family members again, it doesn’t take away the fact that we would still like to know what happened.”

Li Xinmao, whose daughter and son-in-law were on the plane, called Tuesday’s announcement “unacceptable” and the governments of Malaysia and China “irresponsible.” Nearly two-thirds of the people aboard Flight 370 were Chinese.

“No matter how much we protested, they wouldn’t take our complaints, and it has become useless for us to protest,” Li said. “Even so, I will continue to protest because I just can’t accept the result.”

Wen Wancheng, whose son was on the flight, took a two-hour train ride to Beijing to press Malaysia Airlines to release more information about the plane. He and other Chinese relatives of passengers planned to gather in front of the airline’s Beijing office on Wednesday.

“The case of the missing plane must be solved before we let it pass away, and as long as we are determined, we will eventually find out what happened,” Wen said.

Search crews spent nearly three years trawling a 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) area where the plane was believed to have gone down, an effort that cost an estimated $160 million. They did not find the main underwater wreckage, the black box data recorder, or any sign of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the aircraft.

A team of international investigators said in December that the plane may have fallen in a different area based on where more than 20 items of debris have since washed ashore. But Australia’s transport minister said the new analysis did “not give a specific location of the missing aircraft,” and expanding the search based on that finding would be unlikely.

Narendran said he thought Australian officials wanted to “bury the search” rather than suspend it. A group representing victims’ families, Voice370, said extending the search was “an inescapable duty owed to the flying public.”

Nan Jinyan, whose brother’s fiancee was killed, was more resigned.

“It has become a fact that the missing plane can’t be found, maybe forever,” Nan said. “We have no way but to accept it.”

Jeanette Maguire, who lost her Australian sister and brother-in-law, said she and others knew rescue efforts were too expensive to continue indefinitely.

“We were hoping and praying that that wouldn’t be it and we would have found something of significance for them to be able to keep searching,” Maguire said.

But for many others, finding closure remains impossible.

Lee Khim Fatt’s wife, Foong Wai Yueng, was a stewardess on Flight 370. Three years later, Lee still hasn’t held a memorial for his wife or touched her wardrobe or belongings in their home in Malaysia.

“I told my children to keep praying,” Lee said. “As long as nothing is found, nothing is proven.”

___

Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia; Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and news researcher Yu Bing and videojournalist Peng Peng in Beijing contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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