Flight 370 families upset over differing signals from Malaysia, France on plane debris

Families aching for closure after their relatives disappeared aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last year vented deep frustration Thursday at differing statements from Malaysia and France over whether the finding of a plane part had been confirmed.

BEIJING — Families aching for closure after their relatives disappeared aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last year vented deep frustration Thursday at differing statements from Malaysia and France over whether the finding of a plane part had been confirmed.

“Why the hell do you have one confirm and one not?” asked Sara Weeks of Christchurch, New Zealand. Her brother, Paul Weeks, was on the plane that disappeared March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“Why not wait and get everybody on the same page so the families don’t need to go through this turmoil?” she said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced early Thursday that a plane wing section found on the French island of Reunion was “conclusively confirmed” to be from Flight 370, saying he hoped the news would end “unspeakable” uncertainty. The announcement was in line with the Malaysian conclusion that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people aboard.

But French officials with custody of the wing part said only that there were strong indications the barnacle-encrusted part — known as a “flaperon” — was from the flight and that they would work further to try to confirm the finding.

“After 17 months, we need definite answers,” Weeks said. “We need to progress, get answers, move toward further answers, and get some closure along the line.”

About two-thirds of the passengers were from China, and in Beijing, Xu Jinghong said she could not understand why Malaysian and French authorities did not make their statements together.

“I am very angry — so angry that my hands and feet are cold,” Xu, 41, said in an interview early Thursday outside her downtown home. “The announcement was made without experts from France present. I don’t understand how the procedure can be like this.”

The statement by Najib would appear to give the first strong physical evidence of a crash, which could put to rest several theories that many relatives have refused to rule out, including that the plane and its passengers were hijacked and intact in some still-unknown location.

Irene Burrows, the 85-year-old mother of missing Australian passenger Rod Burrows, who was lost with his wife, Mary, said last year that she didn’t expect the mystery to be solved in her lifetime. She said at the time: “All I just want is a bit of the plane. It’s all I want to know — where they are.”

For her, Thursday’s confirmation was a simple wish come true.

“We’re quite pleased that it’s been found,” she said from her home in Biloela in northeastern Australia.

However, for many relatives, any potential certainty was diluted by the word from Paris, where Deputy Prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said the “very strong conjectures” that the wing part was from the missing Boeing 777 still needed to be “confirmed by complementary analysis” that would begin later Thursday.

It was unclear whether the mix-up was a result of miscommunication between the two countries, differing notions of the burden of proof, or whether Malaysian officials were overeager to send out some definitive signal for relatives of the missing.

In any case, a full confirmation of the wing part wasn’t likely to bring total closure for relatives, with the rest of the plane and the bodies still missing.

Jiang Hui, whose mother was on board, said there was still a lack of evidence to prove that the plane crashed as was announced by Malaysian officials last year. At the time, they cited thorough analysis of the limited satellite data available for the flight. Major questions remain, including why the plane went off course.

“The finding of debris does not mean the finding of our next of kin,” said Jiang, 41.

About a dozen Chinese relatives of passengers gathered Thursday at Malaysia Airlines offices in Beijing, holding signs, including one saying, “Malaysia hides the truth.” After several hours, the group was invited into a closed-door talk with airline officials. They later went to Boeing offices but weren’t allowed in.

While confirming ocean-borne debris from the plane is an important threshold for many relatives, it will be difficult for some to fully come to terms with the disaster without seeing the body of their loved one, said Nancy Smyth, a University of Buffalo sociologist focusing on psychological trauma.

The finding of the wing piece “is certainly a step toward closure,” Smyth said, adding: “It is important not to think of closure as a check box, but more of a journey and process for people with a lot of layers.”

“So much of our grieving process involves physicality, such as seeing the body, and that’s not present here, which makes it very difficult for the families to gain closure,” she said.

Melanie Antonio, whose husband was a Flight 370 flight attendant, said she wasn’t sure how to feel.

“I’m numb, I’m not sad,” she said in Kuala Lumpur. “It’s just a flaperon, it doesn’t prove anything. We still need the wreckage to prove. I just want anything that can tell me my hubby is gone.”

Jacquita Gomes, also the wife of a flight attendant, echoed that sentiment. “If it’s not too much to ask, I still want the remains of my husband.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read