BEIJING (AP) — Their hopes raised and dashed, relatives of passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines plane want a new plan to find it after the search was suspended following a new setback.
The 84-year-old mother of Australian passenger Rod Burrows no longer expects to live to see the mystery of Flight 370 solved. "I doubt it will be in my lifetime," Irene Burrows said Friday from her home in Biloela in Australia's northeast. "All I just want is a bit of plane. It's all I want to know — where they are."
Tempers flared Thursday after the joint center set up to oversee the search for the jetliner that vanished March 8 said a robot submarine had found no trace of it in a section of the southern Indian Ocean where acoustic signals, or "pings," were detected.
Investigators have concluded that the area where the signals were detected is not the final resting place of the plane. The search for the plane and the 239 people on board will be suspended for two months while more powerful sonar equipment is brought in, according to the Australia-based Joint Agency Coordination Center.
"Now they say the pings are not from the plane. It's March 8 all over again and I don't like March 8 at all," said an emotional Jacquita Gonzales, whose husband Patrick Gomes was the flight supervisor.
"We are on a roller coaster ride and we have just hit bottom again," she said. Gonzales said sometimes she is an "emotional wreck" thinking about the fate of her beloved husband but wills herself to be strong. Their 29th wedding anniversary is on Sunday.
"Please find the plane, find my husband and all our loved ones," she said. Authorities believe the plane, bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, turned sharply and flew to the southern Indian Ocean. Yet not a single piece of the missing Boeing 777 has been found.
The Malaysian official in charge of the search, Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, visited Beijing this week, and relatives asked to meet him but got no reply, said Steve Wang, whose mother was on the plane.
"Something very disappointing has been announced and we want to know what his plan is," Wang said. This week, the Malaysian government gave in to pressure from families of passengers and released 45 pages of satellite data it used to determine that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
"It feels like we have been fooled by the authorities. We are now back to square one. I expect them to keep searching. There can't be any closure until we find something," said Lee Khim Fatt, whose wife Christine Foong was a stewardess on the plane.
Lee said he cannot believe that such a big plane can't be detected by satellites and modern technology. "If satellites can capture the image of a small car with its number plate, why is there no satellite image of this big bird, the 777? Are they hiding something from us?" Lee said.
China renewed diplomatic pressure on the Malaysian government on Thursday in a meeting between Premier Li Keqiang and visiting Prime Minister Najib Razak. Beijing has tried to placate Chinese relatives of missing passengers by pressing their case with Malaysia while trying to avoid damage to relations with an important trading partner.
"We expect Malaysia to take the leading and coordinating role, come up with a new search plan for the jet at an early date, and take the investigation seriously," Li told Najib, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia. Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.