Paul and Danica Weeks.
Paul and Danica Weeks.

MH370: Family says news brings no answers, closure

The sister of a New Zealander lost on flight MH370 says the latest news on the plane wreckage comes nowhere near to bringing closure to families, and she's upset by contradictory information coming from foreign authorities.

Overnight, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the wreckage found on the French-administered island of Reunion was that of MH370.

But just a few hours later the French prosecutor, Serge Mackowiak, suggested but would not confirm the wreckage was from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

"I think we can say that as of today there is a very strong supposition that the flaperon found on the beach of the island on the 29th of July actually does belong to the Boeing 777 of MH370, which disappeared on the 8th of March 2014," Mr Mackowiak said.

His careful language was at odds with the vehement assertions from Mr Razak, Malaysia Airlines, and other authorities who overnight "confirmed" the wreckage was from MH370.

Paul Weeks' sister Sara.  Photo: TV3
Paul Weeks' sister Sara. Photo: TV3

The "supposition" was a setback for Sara Weeks, the sister of Paul Weeks, who along with fellow New Zealander Ximin Wang was on the doomed flight last March.

"If he's got the same information as the Malaysian Prime Minister, then theoretically he should be able to stand there and say it belongs to MH370, end of story, because that's what the Malaysian Prime Minister said," Ms Weeks told NZME News Service this morning.

She said her family had for some time guessed the wreckage was that of MH370, but needed unequivocal confirmation.

"Most likely it is. We're not bloody stupid. But you can't say that it absolutely is when one person's saying it could be but they don't know, they're still not sure."

But more importantly, she said the family still wanted to know how and why the plane went missing.

She said important questions would remain even if the French prosecutor confirmed the debris' origin, and more wreckage was recovered.

"I don't think it does anything for us at all. We've known it's been missing for 17 months.

"We know Paul's not with us. All of these people know their family members aren't there. Where are they? We actually want to know what happened," she added.

"You can't get over something like this without understanding firstly, how can you lose a plane? How? I need that explained to me, because it's just absolutely ridiculous. And how can you not know where it went?" she asked.

She said getting answers to these questions would be the only way relatives of those on MH370 could get closure.

"You know what, I never liked flying anyway. But why would I want to hop on a plane if I know it can disappear?"

Asked if Malaysia Airlines had been in touch, Ms Weeks said: "Don't be ridiculous...I missed a phone call from a reporter saying that it had been confirmed as belonging to MH370. That's how I find everything out, and that's also how Danica finds out."

The plane disappeared on Saturday, March 8 last year.

Among the 239 people on board were Mr Wang, of Mt Albert in Auckland, and Mr Weeks, who lived in Perth but came from Canterbury.

MH370 left the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur for Beijing but never reached its destination.

The plane's disappearance spawned numerous unconfirmed theories and a fruitless search for wreckage in the southeastern Indian Ocean.

On Tuesday, Malaysia asked authorities in islands surrounding Reunion to be vigilant for possible plane wreckage, as France confirmed the object washed up on the Indian Ocean isle was from a Boeing 777.

Transponders and fuselage have still not been found, which meant we did not "know for sure" if the wreckage was from MH370, Fox News reported.

Sea life growing on the flaperon, a wing section, could provide some clues as to the path the plane took during more than 500 days floating in the Indian Ocean, the Washington Post reported.

'We need to know why'

Jacquita Gomes, the wife of crew member Patrick Gomes, said she was informed by Malaysia Airlines about the news half an hour before Najib's announcement.

"Now that they have confirmed it as MH370, I know my husband is no longer of this world but they just can't leave it with this one flaperon. We urge them to continue searching until they find the plane and bring it back," she said.

"We still need to know what happened. They still need to find the plane. They still need to find the black box to get the truth out," she said.

"It brings some sort of closure but not a complete closure. We don't know what happened and where the plane went down. It's not over yet."

Mrs Gomes said she hopes to get her husband's body back so that the family can give him a proper burial and say goodbye. She said she watched the announcement on TV with one of her daughters, while her youngest child, a 15-year-old son, was asleep.

"My son doesn't know yet that his dad is really gone, that he won't be back," she said, in tears. "I will have to tell him tomorrow before he goes to school."

Highly technical efforts to extrapolate the jet's final hours before it would have run out of fuel gave force to the theory that it went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

No one is certain why the plane deviated so far from its planned route.

Analysts have said a close look at the wing part could indicate what kind of stress the plane was under as it made impact. It won't fully solve the mystery of why the plane disappeared, nor will it help pinpoint where the plane crashed.

A six-week air and sea search covering 4.6 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) of the southern Indian Ocean surface early last year failed to find any trace of the jet.

What happened to MH370?

The Reunion Island debris would be consistent with the working theory that the jet went down in the Indian Ocean and the debris travelled with the ocean current which moves counter-clockwise.

Malaysian officials, who are leading the investigation into the plane's disappearance, have said the plane's movements were consistent with deliberate actions by someone on the plane, suggesting someone in the cockpit intentionally flew the aircraft off-course.

Since last year, Australian officials who are leading the search effort have operated on the theory that the plane flew on autopilot for hours before running out of fuel and crashing into the ocean.

Investigators settled on this scenario after analysing data exchanged between the plane and a satellite, which showed the plane took a straight path across the ocean.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said last year that investigators assume the autopilot would have to have been manually switched on, again suggesting that someone in the cockpit deliberately steered the plane off-course.

In defining the search area, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau also operated on the theory that the crew was unresponsive, possibly suffering from oxygen deprivation, as the plane flew on autopilot.

The agency said this was indicated by the loss of radio communications and a long period without any manoeuvring of the plane, though it emphasized this was only a working theory and did not mean that accident investigators led by Malaysia would reach a similar conclusion.

A loss of cabin air pressure could cause oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia, which could make pilots unable to perform even basic tasks.

Some analysts argue that the apparent lack of damage to the piece of wreckage indicates a controlled landing on the ocean, with the jet sinking largely intact.

Another theory is that the jet plunged into the water vertically - high dive-style - snapping off both wings but preserving the fuselage.

Yet another possibility, supported by a flight simulator, is that an out-of-fuel Boeing 777 would belly-flop heavily tail-first, disintegrating on impact.


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