New probe over vanished Malaysia Airlines plane urged in China court

Nearly 10 years after the plane vanished, families say it is time for a new hunt for the truth.

A man surnamed Fu, who lost his brother, reacts as he speaks to the media following a court hearing on compensation for those who lost their loved ones on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that went missing in 2014, in Beijing, China November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Florence Lo
A man surnamed Fu, who lost his brother, speaks following a court hearing on compensation for those who lost their loved ones on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Beijing, China, on November 27 [Florence Lo/Reuters]

The families of passengers who were on board a Malaysia Airlines flight that famously vanished nearly a decade ago have called for a new investigation.

More than 40 Chinese relatives signed an open letter to Malaysia’s prime minister on Monday, saying it is time for a new hunt for the truth into flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014, after it took off with 239 passengers and crew on board, heading from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The plane did not arrive in China. Its disappearance triggered the largest search in aviation history, but after three years, almost no trace of the aircraft – save for a few pieces of debris found along the coast of Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean – was found.

Malaysian investigators did not rule out the possibility that the aircraft had been deliberately taken off course. Other theories posited over the mysterious fate of the plane include mechanical failure or a hijacking attempt.

The 40 relatives made their appeal for a new investigation as their claim for compensation from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, engine maker Rolls Royce and Allianz insurance group opened in a Chinese court, state broadcaster CCTV said.

In their letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the families said they wanted to search for the plane on their own and “are willing to invest their own money or cooperate with capable individuals and companies”.

They asked for “effective communication” with the Malaysian government to launch the search.

Following the court hearing, many relatives held back tears as they spoke of coping with the tragedy 10 years on.

Bao Lanfang, whose son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on the flight, said she cares more about answers than compensation.

“What I want is that Malaysia Airlines gives me the truth. What happened to our loved ones?” said the 71-year-old. “What I want now is for them to resume the search and the investigation.”

Malaysia’s transport ministry and Malaysia Airlines both declined to comment on the hearing by the Chinese court, whose jurisdiction to enforce compensation against the defendants is unclear.

Each family filed for civil compensation of between 10 million yuan ($1.4m) and 80 million yuan ($11.2m), as well as moral damages of 30 million yuan ($4.2m) to 40 million yuan ($5.6m), CCTV reported.

The families of more than 110 other passengers have already reached a settlement and received between 2.5 million and 3 million yuan, the broadcaster said.

The disappearance of MH370 has long fuelled a host of theories, including that veteran pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah had gone rogue.

In 2016, Malaysian officials revealed the pilot had plotted a path over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator but stressed this did not prove he deliberately crashed the plane.

A final report into the tragedy released in 2018 pointed to failings by air traffic control and said the plane’s course was changed manually.

But it failed to come up with any firm conclusions, leaving relatives exasperated and disappointed.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies