Families aim to raise $15 million to search for Flight 370
By EILEEN NG | Associated Pres | Published: March 4, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The families of those onboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 launched efforts Saturday to raise at least $15 million to fund a private search as they marked the third anniversary of the plane's disappearance.
Malaysia, Australia and China suspended a nearly three-year search in the southern Indian Ocean on Jan. 17 after it failed to find any trace of the plane. The jet disappeared March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Jacquita Gomes, whose husband was a flight attendant on the plane, said families have no choice but to take matters into their own hands by raising the money.
"What happened to MH370 is a mystery, but it should not go down in the history books as a mystery. Everybody wants answers," Gomes said at a three-hour remembrance event at a shopping mall near Kuala Lumpur.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a speech at the event that a final report with information and analysis on what happened to the plane based on available data and evidence would be released this year. He didn't say when.
He said authorities would step up efforts to comb for plane debris along the African coast. So far, Liow said, 27 pieces of debris have been found, including two new pieces found off Africa about two weeks ago. He said that three pieces of debris have been confirmed to be from Flight 370, and that five more are "almost certain" to be from the plane.
Despite the suspension of the $160 million hunt for the plane, Liow said authorities haven't abandoned all efforts to locate the wreckage. He told reporters that an international team of experts in Australia is still studying whether an area north of the previous search area could be the plane's final resting place.
Liow said there was an 85 percent chance that the new 25,000-square-kilometer (15,535-square-mile) area could be the crash site, and that experts needed more time to study satellite images, debris flow and other clues.
"Funding has never been an issue, but we have to be sure ... we need credible evidence," said Liow, who was making his first appearance at a Flight 370 anniversary event organized by the families.
Gomes said that through online fundraising and corporate donations, families hope to raise at least $15 million to pursue the search in the new area recommended by the experts.
More than 30 family members from Malaysia, Australia, China, India and France went on stage and spoke about the urgency to find closure. They released eight white pigeons and shouted "Search on."
"We will keep fighting, we will keep trying," said Danica Weeks of Australia, whose husband was a passenger on Flight 370. "We have no peace at this point. It's painful. It doesn't get better with time."