Paul and Danica Weeks on their wedding day in 2007. Danica Weeks, whose husband was on board MH370, with her children Lincoln and Jack. Photo: Janie Barrett
Families of passengers who were on board missing flight MH370 say a government decision to end the search for the plane and ignore game-changing new evidence of its location is “another kick in the guts”.
Danica Weeks, whose husband Paul was one of 238 passengers and crew on the doomed Malaysia Airlines jet, told Fairfax Media that new analysis showing the plane likely crashed in a stretch of the Indian Ocean north of the existing search zone should trigger an extension of the operation.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau review, conducted by a panel of international experts and released this week, found that the 120,000 square kilometre search area likely never contained the wreckage and that salvage teams should instead scour a 25,000 square kilometre area further north.
But the Australian government quickly knocked the idea on the head, saying countries involved in the two-year, $200 million search agreed it will terminate soon unless credible evidence about the “specific location” of the aircraft is found.
Mrs Weeks said the new information was credible and suggested Malaysia should take over and continue the operation if Australia was unwilling.
“They have to find it. It’s not just about us. It’s about the aviation industry as a whole. And if we don’t find out what happened to this plane, it could happen again,” she said.
The Malaysian government, however, has also dismissed the ATSB review.
“Obviously it’s another kick in the guts for the families,” Mrs Weeks said of government responses to the new evidence. “We’ve had so much hope and then each time we’ve got the hope up and it’s been washed away.”
Of the 239 passengers and crew on board MH370, 152 were Chinese nationals and six were Australian.
Jiang Hui, whose 72-year-old mother Jiang Cuiyun was on the flight, has been a vocal representative for Chinese families and has just returned to Beijing from a two-week trip to Madagascar and Mauritius, searching for washed-up debris from the plane with seven other relatives from China, France and Malaysia.
“The search cannot stop,” he told Fairfax Media. “I remember the three governments all told us the search would be continuous, would not end, and would not ge given up on. It is a promise to all families, and to the international community.”
The search for answers has taken a damaging toll on Mr Jiang, who has been let go from his job and diagnosed with clinical depression.
He said families want greater transparency into why the original search area had come up empty, and what information had prompted investigators to define a new one. He said they will not stop searching.
Armed with new information, the panel of experts now believe the wreckage is likely somewhere along what is called the “seventh arc” – a line calculated from when the plane made its final contact with a satellite before it ran out of fuel and went into the sea.
Transport Minister Darren Chester said the search has stretched the ability of technology and global experts and has been the largest ever undertaken.
“The information that they had available to them and the work they’ve done has indicated that they’re in the vicinity of where the aircraft went down,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“Now, obviously, If we don’t find the aircraft in that 120,000-square-kilometre search area, we are open to the criticism that you had looked in the wrong place.
“If it is not there it must be somewhere else and that’s a pretty obvious assumption to make.”
Mrs Weeks, who has two young children, said life since March 2014 has been an emotional rollercoaster.
“If they’re not going to take [the review] on board, I want to know why. We’ll just keep fighting for justice and to bring our loved ones home,” she said.
“I’m going to find him.”
– with David Wroe