May 29, 2018 / 7:27 AM / 20 days ago

Four years on, MH370 families await report as search ends for missing plane

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s new government has promised to release a long-awaited report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as a privately funded underwater search ended on Tuesday.

Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, vanished enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, becoming one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

The government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that U.S. seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity, which had scoured the southern Indian Ocean for the aircraft since January, would end its hunt on Tuesday.

The previous administration of Najib Razak, who was defeated in a stunning election upset on May 9, had promised up to $70 million to the Texas-based firm if it found the plane within 90 days.

Malaysia’s transport minister, Anthony Loke, said a full report into MH370’s disappearance would be published in the near future, but he did not give a date.

“I can assure you the final report will be published with full disclosure. There will not be any edits, or anything hidden,” he told reporters late on Monday.

Asked whether the report would refer to controversial elements of the MH370 case, he said: “To me, whatever elements, we will just publish it”.

Last year, Australian authorities said the MH370 captain had flown a route on his home simulator six weeks before the disappearance that was “initially similar” to the course actually taken by the aircraft.

Peter Foley, who led the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s search efforts, told an Australian Senate hearing “control inputs” had been made to fly the airliner off course, but he could not say if one of the pilots had done so.

Malaysian investigators said in 2015 they had found nothing suspicious in the financial, medical or personal histories of the pilots or crew.

FAMILIES CALL FOR REVIEW

The decision to engage Ocean Infinity came after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless A$200-million ($159 million) search across a 120,000 square-kilometre (46,332 square mile) expanse of the Indian Ocean last year.

This was despite investigators calling for the target area to be extended north by 25,000 square kilometres (9653 square miles).

The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion maritime search aircraft can be seen on low-level clouds as it flies over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Rob Griffith/Pool/Files

Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Plunkett said on Tuesday their team had searched more than 112,000 square kilometres (43,243 square miles) of ocean floor in a little over three months.

While the outcome was “extremely disappointing”, Plunkett hoped the company would be able to offer its services again in a future search for the airliner.

Asked if China would consider further funding for the search, or whether search organisations had asked China for more resources, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had always maintained close communication with the relevant parties.

“We will continue to maintain communication with relevant parties,” Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Voice 370, a group representing the relatives of those aboard the flight, has pressed the new Malaysian government to review all matters related to MH370, including “any possible falsification or elimination of records related to MH370 and its maintenance”.

Calvin Shim, whose wife was a crew member on the plane, said he was concerned that the accident report would not include key information such as the plane’s full cargo manifest and the results of a separate investigation by Malaysian police.

“We know that this issue is already four years old and a lot of people involved want closure,” he said.

“These four years have not been fun to us, the families.”

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the search had tested the limits of technology and capacity of experts and people at sea.

It would only resume if there was “credible evidence which identifies a specific location of the missing aircraft”.

“We will always remain hopeful that one day the aircraft will be located,” McCormack’s office said in a statement.

Slideshow (5 Images)

The only confirmed traces of the plane have been three wing fragments found washed up on Indian Ocean coasts.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in SINGAPORE, Michael Martina in BEIJING and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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