MH370 next of kin recall their disbelief at news of missing plane

by Melati A. Jalil
The Malaysian Insider
7 March 2015

United in sorrow, the next of kin of crew members on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 gathered tonight for strength and solidarity as they recounted the disbelief and terror they felt one year ago upon hearing that the plane carrying their loved ones had vanished.

“Oh My God, oh my God, oh my God, what’s going on, what’s going on,” was the first thing Melanie Antonio said when she first heard the news of the Beijing-bound jetliner’s disappearance on March 8, 2014.

Antonio, the wife of chief steward Andrew Nari recalled the shock and the speechlessness she felt that morning.

“They said the flight had lost contact and I said, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, what’s going on, what’s going on… seriously that’s what I said because I was shocked,” she told The Malaysian Insider tonight at the One Year Remembrance of MH370 Cabin Crew Families event in Petaling Jaya.

There were 12 crew members, including the pilot and co-pilot, on board the plane that lost contact with civilian radar over the waters off Vietnam as it headed towards Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The plane then did an air turn back before flying southwards to the Indian Ocean, where it is believed to have ended, and where a massive undersea search is ongoing.

Kelvin Shim, whose wife Christine Tan was the lead stewardess, said he told himself that what he was experiencing could not be true.

“My first reaction was to feel very scared, and I called my mum. I was telling myself, it could’t be me.

He said he was first informed by WhatsApp about a missing plane at around 8.30am on March 8.

“First, I received the information on WhatsApp about an aircraft missing, then later, it was a Malaysia Airlines plane that had gone missing. I knew it was a Beijing-bound flight, but I didn’t know how many flights go to Beijing in one day.”

“After I saw the WhatsApp, I quickly checked whether the flight number was the same with the flight that she boarded,” he said.

With the current search in the southern Indian Ocean expected to end in May, Shim said he hoped the government would continue trying to find the plane.

“If nothing is found, I hope the government would sit down again, analyze all the information, data and continue to search.”

“I’m not sure whether they should search other areas. The world is so big, I can understand that you can’t simply search everywhere, the search is expensive. You have to depend on correct data, then only you search,” he said.

Another spouse of a crew member, Choi Loong Chow, said he last spoke with his wife Goh Sock Lay, at 9.24pm on March 7, before she boarded the plane.

She reminded him to apply for leave from work in April to observe the Qing Ming festival, a time when Chinese clear the graves of their ancestors and pay respect to them.

“That day on March 7, around 9.24pm, she first called me when I had my shower, but I didn’t pick up, so she called me a second time at my other phone. She talked in a very rushed manner, saying, Daddy, daddy…I remind you, we need to go back to Malacca for Qing Ming,” Choi said.

Jacquita Gonzales, the wife of steward Patrick Gomes said the first thing she did after hearing of the plane’s loss of contact was to send him a message.

“That was my first message, Where are you.”

“Right now at this time last year, our spouses were preparing to go on the flight, we were having dinner, right now, almost a year ago. My husband was playing with his grandson on the iPad,” Gonzales said, adding that the memory was still fresh in her mind.

“[If only we could] just press the rewind button,” she said.

The gathering tonight observed a minute of silence.

Gonzales, speaking on behalf of the next of kin of the crew members, then gave a speech thanking several parties, including the Malaysian government, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, then acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin, who had headed a committee for the next of kin.

“Thank you to Malaysia and to every other country that has sent us prayers and wishes, to tell us to be strong, and keep the faith,” she said, adding that they also thanked the search team of MH370.

Hamzah, who attended the gathering tonight, said he decided to be with the next of kin even though he was supposed to be at an Umno meeting in Perak.

“I realise the importance of someone from the government to assure them that the government will always be with them,” he said, adding that he would follow through with the issues raised in the interim investigation report on the plane that is expected to be released on Sunday. As required by international aviation convention, an interim report on any air disaster must be released a year from the incident. – March 7, 2015.

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