Before a Monday news conference announcing that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ended in the Indian Ocean, relatives of passengers learned the tragic news via a text from the airline.
The text read: “Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond a reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.”
Some relatives were in Kuala Lumpur and others were in Beijing.
“They have told us all lives are lost,” a relative told a CNN producer as that person left a conference room at Beijing’s Lido Hotel, where family members met with airline representatives on Monday.
Just before the relatives were told the news, four emergency medical workers — dressed in bright orange uniforms — entered the conference room. A bed on wheels also was pushed inside.
After some time, relatives emerged, sobbing loudly. A few pushed and shoved each other, overcome with grief. Some passengers were wheeled out on the beds. One group of relatives smashed a photojournalist’s camera lens.
Felt left out
A Chinese grandmother emerged from the conference room screaming, “The Communist Party has to help me! My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on board! All three family members are gone. I am desperate!”
She sobbed and fell to her knees.
At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that Flight 370 “ended” in the Indian Ocean, far from any possible landing site.
CNN’s Sara Sidner, who has been in Kuala Lumpur over the past few days, has spent time with family members.
“These families have been through absolute hell,” she reported on air shortly before the Prime Minister’s news conference began.
Family members have tended to move in groups, Sidner said, clinging to one another for support. Counselors are with them. Upon hearing the news the flight ended in the Indian Ocean, Sidner said some relatives said they felt they had some answers.
But since their nightmare began on March 8, many family members have “felt they’d been left out,” she said. “That was very upsetting. They felt they were disrespected. That has changed” since family members met with authorities.
For more than two weeks, relatives of passengers hoped their loved ones were still alive.
Baring a vulnerability to journalists around the world, they have wept and begged authorities for answers. Some have been so enraged because they believed they weren’t getting anywhere.
No closure yet
The girlfriend of an American passenger has been writing her boyfriend on her personal Facebook page; notes that are tender and anguishing.
Sarah Bajc tells him that she misses him and wishes he would hurry up and come back to her. A Facebook page called Finding Philip Wood has become a repository for kind notes to Bajc and messages from others who have followed the flight mystery.
Just days ago, Bajc told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she was frustrated authorities were not searching more on land rather than across the water.
“There’s been no exchange of information with authorities,” she said, “so that is exactly why I’ve been engaging with the media.”
After the news conference on Monday, a message was posted though it’s unclear who wrote it: “Our collective hearts are hurting now. Please lift all the loved ones of MH370 with your good thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continued support and for being our inspiration.”
In addition to the text Malaysia Airlines sent out, phone calls and in-person briefings occurred. The airline also told CNN it is working on an arrangement to fly families to Australia once wreckage is found.
But Bajc wrote in an e-mail to reporters following Monday’s development that she still has no closure because there’s still “no confirmed wreckage.”
She wrote: “I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with the public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along. … It looks like the first phase of our mission has ended. Now Philip’s family and I will need some time for private grief.”
Criticism of investigation
Malaysian authorities and Malaysia Airlines have faced increasing criticism of how they have so far handled the investigation.
The airline has defended its actions, explaining that it takes time to verify satellite signals and analyze those signals’ significance before releasing information.
Last week, three women who are relatives of the passengers staged a protest at the Kuala Lumpur hotel where the media are staying. Their efforts were cut short by security guards who removed them through a crush of reporters, dragging one as she screamed.
One woman cried: “My son … I just want my son back.”
She and the other family members said they aren’t satisfied with “the Malaysian government’s inaction.”
“What we need is to know the truth, to know where the plane is,” she shouted. “We have had enough. Malaysian government are liars.”
Another woman shouted, “I don’t care what your government does, I just want my son back!”
“We need media from the entire world (to) help us find our lost families and find the MH370 plane,” the woman said. “We have no information at all. … They only say ‘keep searching’ — from South China Sea to Malacca Strait to Andaman Sea.”
Also last week, in Beijing, Ye Lun, whose brother-in-law was on the missing plane, spoke about the pain of how every day is the same — no answers.
Ye’s sister — the wife of one of the passengers — has become very unstable, he said.
“Every morning, she feels that she’s got hope when she comes to the briefing. Then they simply say those blurry things again,” Ye said. “Then she loses hope again.”
Nine days after the plane went missing, family members’ patience with officials was wearing thin.
Before a packed room, one man told them that the families had lost faith.
“A liar can lie once, twice or three times, but what’s the point (to) keep lying?” he said. “What we ask for is the truth. Don’t hide things from us.”
At a briefing on March 16, a majority of the people in the room stood up when the man asked how many had lost trust in the airline and the Malaysian government.
Another man rushed to the front of the room and tried to throw a punch but was stopped.
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