"Don't Take Family For Granted" - MH370 Families Tell Us How Life Has Been 3 Years Later

Today marks the third anniversary of the MH370 tragedy.

Cover image via SAYS

8 March 2014. At 12.41am on that fateful day, flight MH370 left Malaysia for a six-hour flight to Beijing.

MH370 was never seen again. There were 239 people onboard.

Image via ATSB via CNN

It has been three years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 left the KLIA airport to a six-hour flight to Beijing, China. The plane took off at exactly 12.41am and the final words from the cockpit were, "Good night Malaysian three seven zero" at 1.19am.

Just minutes later, at 1.21am, the plane's transponder stopped communication. The plane appeared to change course in the time frame of 1.21 am to 1.28am.

A transponder sends electronic messages from the place about the flight number, altitude, speed, and heading.

At 2.40am, the Malaysian air traffic controllers told the national flag carrier that flight MH370 was missing from radar

After conducting a preliminary search, about an hour later at 3.45am, Malaysia Airlines issues a "code red" alert that indicates a plane is missing from radar.

About an hour after the plane was supposed to land in Beijing, at 7.24am, Malaysia Airlines made a public announcement about the plane's disappearance on their Facebook page.

Analysis of satellite data revealed that MH370 continued to fly for six hours after it went missing from radar and all contact was lost. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak confirmed that the last signal from the flight was picked up at 8.11am. It was reported that it was the only time the satellite above the Indian Ocean had picked up the signals from MH370.

The flight's disappearance prompted one of the largest and most expensive search in aviation history. While it has led to discoveries of debris, the world is yet to know what really happened to MH370.

The flaperon from MH370 found on Réunion Island in July 2015.

Image via CNN

Throughout the search period in the span of three years, about 26 countries were involved in the search of the missing jet.

On 17 March 2014, the Australian government agreed to lead the search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean. An extensive search from October 2014 till January 2017 of 120,000 square kilometers of sea floor about 1,800km south-west of Perth, Australia found no evidence of the aircraft.

However, on 27 July 2015, a flaperon, which was later confirmed to be from flight MH370 was found on Réunion Island, east of Madagascar. The second piece of debris, an outboard wing flap was discovered in Tanzania and the third, a fragment of plane wing discovered in Mauritius in May 2016.

On 17 January, the three nations involved in the MH370 search, Malaysia, Australia, and China, announced that they will be officially suspending the underwater search but stressed that they will not rule out another search if "credible evidence emerges".

"The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness. Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modeling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft," read the joint statement issued by the three countries.

The suspension was not well received by Voice370 - the next of kin group of those onboard flight MH370. They expressed disappointment over the matter, urging the governments to reverse their decision.

The majority of people onboard flight MH370 were Chinese nationals.

Image via Andy Wong/AP

"Commercial planes cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace."

"Stopping at this stage is nothing short of irresponsible, and betrays a shocking lack of faith in the data, tools and recommendations of an array of official experts assembled by the authorities themselves," read the statement released by Voice370.

MH370 was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations.

Voice370 is determined to continue with the search for their loved ones, launching a campaign to raise USD15 million to fund a new search for MH370

Malaysian lawyer, Grace Nathan and Jiang Hui at the memorial event on Saturday, 4 March.

Image via EPA

The campaign to fund the search for the plane was launched at a memorial event for MH370 last Saturday, 4 March in Kuala Lumpur.

"We won’t start fundraising until we’re sure that the governments are not going to resume the search and until the current data has been fully reviewed and analysed," explained Grace Nathan. Her mother Anne Daisy was onboard MH370.

Meanwhile, Jiang Hui Be of China, whose mother was on the plane spoke about how grateful and surprised he was to find a potential MH370 debris in Madagascar in 2016.

"I thought it was very miraculous and fortunate when I found the piece of debris that day, but I thought it was useless because this sort of searching activity should have been done by the government."

"It should not be us, the family members, who should have been subjected to this pain, to go and face this cruel reality," said Jiang, who travelled all the way from China to attend the memorial event.

We spoke to three family members of passengers onboard MH370 at the memorial event. Here's how their lives have been since the tragic disappearance of MH370:

Some of the family members of passengers onboard MH370 at the third annual remembrance event on 4 March.

Image via Facebook/MH370 Families

1. Jacquita Gonzales - she lost her husband, Patrick Francis Gomes. He was the in-flight supervisor on MH370.

Jacquita Gonzales, when speaking to SAYS at the memorial event in Publika on 4 March.

Image via SAYS

Jacquita spoke about her husband, Gomes, who has worked with Malaysia Airlines for 35 years until the untoward incident happened.

When asked about what she remembers most about him, the first thing she said was his love for the family and his first grandson. She described him as a quiet comedian who would come up with one liners and puns and just "knock you out".

"During Chap Goh Mei, everybody goes and throws oranges in Taman Jaya. He told me that he threw a watermelon for me instead," recalled Jacquita lovingly.

While she has pulled through thanks to her biggest support system in the form of her family, she admitted that she's spent the past three years recalling everything they've done together until 8 March 2014.

Jacquita Gonzales holding a photo of her husband, Malaysia Airlines MH370 inflight supervisor Patrick Gomes in Kuala Lumpur.


"But we're trying to stay positive for the children, and we just need to be strong and go on with our daily lives. Just to remember him on that day with prayers," she explained.

Jacquita also took the opportunity to highlight the shared bond between all the other cabin crew members' family. "We're very close, we meet up regularly just to make sure everyone is okay."

What is the biggest lesson she's learned from this harrowing experience?

"Don't take family for granted. Everyday is a blessing when you have them around. I have this fear of my children going and not coming back. The fear is there, but we are a strong family, with the support that we have for each other, I think we will pull through. We have to stay strong for each other," said Jacquita.

Speaking about the Voice370's efforts to launch a new search for MH370, she said that it's crucial for people to know that it's not over till answers are found about the disappearance of the plane.

"It's about safety. This needs to be solved - if not now, soon I hope," added Jacquita.

2. KS Narendran - lost his wife, Chandrika Sharma. The couple met in college and were married for 25 years.

KS Narendran at the memorial event on Saturday, 4 March.

Image via SAYS

According to a report by CNN, Chandrika left Chennai on 7 March 2014. She was the executive secretary of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers and was on her way to Mongolia for a United Nations conference. She never returned.

Days after MH370 went missing, Malaysia Airlines had offered to fly Narendran, an Indian national who lives in Chennai to Malaysia. He declined the offer and stayed in India, saying that he would rather remain at home, with his family and friends.

Fast forward three years later, Narendran, who is a human resources consultant, says that he is still trying to come to terms with what happened.

KS Narendran with his wife, Chandrika Sharma and daughter, Meghna.

Image via CNN

"I feel like we have a long way to go still, both emotionally and in terms of coming to terms with has happened to me, other families. What I feel right now is a little tired, but I know one can't stop," he said when speaking to SAYS at the memorial event on 4 March, explaining that the search for the flight must go on to provide a closure and help people move on to the next chapter of their lives.

What does he remember the most about his wife? How has he been coping with this tragedy?

"Her smile, her energy and her tremendous love for people and empathy. I've been coping reasonably well I think. I've had some bad days, when it's not been easy to get out of bed and get on with life and there has been other days when I think maybe life is a gift and it's important that we live it fully. Therefore, I pick myself up and get on with life," said Narendran, with hints of a sad smile.

3. Danica Weeks - lost her husband, Paul Weeks. He was travelling to Mongolia for his new job as an engineer.

Danica Weeks and her two sons, Jack and Lincoln.

Image via Lyndon via The Australian

The father of two boys had apparently left his wedding ring and watch behind, just in case anything happened to him while he way away. Sadly, something did and he never came home.

"He was funny, he was my best friend, my soul mate. He wasn't just my husband. We did everything together as a family. So, we have definitely been torn apart - his last email to me was, 'You're my world, you and the boys are my world'. He was our world. He's beautiful, he's strong, tall, good looking, funny and loving and as I said, he was my best friend in the entire world," said Danica, when speaking to SAYS.

While reminiscing her husband, Danica also stressed that she has been frustrated and angry at the way things have turned out with the search. She commended the authorities and everyone involved in the search for the past three years but said that the family members are as frustrated as the experts and people searching for the plane.

Danica's husband, Paul Weeks.

Image via CNN

"We need a report on what investigations has been done here in Malaysia and what has been lacking. We've been patient, but we want to know what's been done and what will be done moving forward," added Danica.

She said that the Voice370 was forced to take matters into their own hands as "people that should be doing something aren't doing anything".

"That's a real shame because three years ago, we were promised that they would be delivered home to us but that hasn't happened and now they don't want to do that anymore. We're just doing it for our loved ones and they deserve justice. Everybody deserves that," said Danica.

While the experience has been heartbreaking for Danica and her two young sons, she said that it has also caused her to lose trust in people.

"I was probably a little naive before this. I have probably grown up a lot, had to. It's been hard so I think it's about truth, people being true to what they say and as I say. Actions speak louder than words," she added.

Watch Jacquita, Narendran, and Danica talk about their lost loved ones and life after the MH370 incident here:

In the midst of this, news of Australian authorities not wanting to release information related to MH370 has surfaced. MORE:

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