KUALA LUMPUR – Investigators probing what happened to Flight MH370 said Tuesday the cause of the plane’s disappearance remains a mystery as the second anniversary passed with devastated next of kin still grasping for answers.
The Malaysia-led international team of aviation experts set up to investigate the incident issued an annual progress report, but the brief statement had no new insights on what caused the Malaysia Airlines jet to vanish.
“To date, the MH370 wreckage has still not been found despite the continuing search in the south Indian Ocean,” it said.
It was the second straight year that the team of investigators, which includes representatives from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and its counterparts from several other countries, had nothing to offer.
Malaysia and Australia, however, said they remained optimistic that the painstaking search for an Indian Ocean crash site will find something that could lead to the recovery of flight data recorders and eventually reveal what caused MH370’s disappearance.
“The current search operation is expected to be completed later this year, and we remain hopeful that MH370 will be found,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement.
The jet vanished on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew onboard, mostly Chinese and Malaysians.
Authorities believe the Boeing 777 detoured to the remote southern Indian Ocean and then plunged into the treacherous waters.
A wing fragment confirmed to be from MH370 was found on an island thousands of kilometers from the search area last year, the first proof that the plane indeed went down.
The three nations have already indicated they will end the biggest and most expensive search effort in history if its high-tech scanning of a designated swath of seafloor — expected to be finished in a few months — comes up empty.
Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester echoed Najib’s hope that the search will eventually “give answers to the world, in particular the families of missing loved ones.”
But the agony continues for the hundreds of next of kin whose lives have been shattered.
Jiao Wenxi of China, who lost five family members including his older brother and the 2-year-old daughter of his niece, said the lack of answers has left him feeling “helpless.”
“If you don’t want to tell us the truth, at least let us catch a glimpse of our loved ones. Or if they’ve disappeared, if they’re dead, at least let me see them, or some of their things,” said Jiao, 55. “But now, you have nothing.”
He is bracing for a long and painful vigil. “Maybe they can find it in 10 or 20 years — I’ll wait.”
Jiao spoke at a Buddhist temple in Beijing where more than 20 Chinese relatives gathered to pray and to read out a statement appealing for an open-ended search, saying their suffering made each day feel “like a year.”
There were 153 Chinese nationals onboard.
Theories to explain the disappearance include a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action.
Many families accuse the airline and Malaysian government of abetting the disappearance through a bungled response and covering up information. Many refuse to believe their loved ones are dead.
The second anniversary is also the deadline for suing Malaysia Airlines, and scores of lawsuits seeking damages have been filed in recent days in the United States, Malaysia, China, Australia and elsewhere, while others have accepted undisclosed settlements.
Some suits also target Malaysia’s government and Boeing.
But Jiao, noting that many Chinese next-of-kin lost their only heirs as a consequence of China’s “one-child policy,” said monetary settlements mean nothing.
“What use is it to give that kind of person any sum of money?” he said.
In a statement to AFP, Malaysia Airlines on Tuesday denied being secretive with families, and promised to work “in good faith for payment of fair and equitable compensation.”