Angry families of passengers join to fight airline
Investigators said Wednesday they still had a lot of questions about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 more than ten days after it disappeared on its way to Beijing.
In Beijing, Chinese relatives of the 239 people onboard along with Malaysia Airline officials have been holding regular briefings. On Wednesday, anger boiled over as families challenged the authorities for an hour and a half. One relative held up a sign saying, "Hunger strike; Tell the truth; Return our relatives."
Instead of clear answers, there have been contradictions over when crucial communications equipment was switched off and over the plane's direction. Originally, officials said the aircraft's last location was the South China Sea but then information emerged that Malaysian military radar spotted it flying into the Andaman Sea. Finally, satellite communications saw it hours later, possibly over the Indian Ocean.
Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, and have asked for background checks from abroad on all foreign passengers.
Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said such checks have been received for all the foreigners except those from Ukraine and Russia - which account for three passengers. "So far, no information of significance on any passengers has been found," he said.
The 53-year-old pilot joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flight experience. People who knew Zaharie from his involvement in opposition political circles in Malaysia and other areas of his life have described him as sociable, humble, caring and dedicated to his job.
One relative told NBC News, "I hope that the plane was hijacked. At least if it was hijacked, our loved ones will be safe."
Back in Kuala Lumpur, relatives were taken through the hotel where the media are gathered, surrounded by photographers and journalists, and ushered away. Before they were led away, though, some of the relatives told journalists that they feel like they are in prison, in a hotel waiting for news, hearing virtually nothing.
The crisis has exposed the lack of a failsafe way of tracking modern passenger planes on which data transmission systems and transponders - which make them visible to civilian radar - have been severed. At enormous cost, 26 countries are helping Malaysia look for the plane.
"It's really too much. I don't know why it is taking so long for so many people to find the plane. It's 12 days," Subaramaniam Gurusamy, 60, said in an interview from his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. His 34-year-old son, Pushpanathan Subramaniam, was on the flight heading to Beijing for a work trip.
"He's the one son I have," Subaramaniam said.
Malaysian officials Wednesday announced they discovered files had been deleted February 3 from the pilot's flight simulator found in his home. Forensic investigators, with help from the FBI, are trying to recover any information they can.
The Associated Press contributed to portions of this report.