CANBERRA, Australia — Relatives of some of the 239 passengers and crew lost in the missing Malaysia airliner will fly to Australia on Tuesday in a quest to better understand developments in the search for wreckage and to find some closure more than two years after the tragedy, the daughter of a missing passenger said Monday.
Grace Nathan is among four Malaysians traveling Tuesday to Perth near the southwest coast port where the ships that scour the seabed of the southern Indian Ocean for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are based.
Nathan said two Chinese, an Indonesian, several Australians and American wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson would join her group, which will also travel to the search headquarters in Canberra where a wing flap from the missing Boeing 777 is being examined for clues.
Nathan, whose mother Anne Daisy was aboard the flight that flew far off course on its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, 2014, said the group did not want the search to end in December if the entire 120,000-square-kilometer (46,000-square-mile) search area was examined and nothing was found. Less than 10,000 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) of seabed has yet to be searched.
The 28-year-old Kuala Lumpur lawyer said she was interested in drifting modeling work currently underway in Australia to define a new search area in case the current search turns up nothing.
“We want to try to better understand what they are trying to do and we want to know what we can do to push for the search to go on,” Nathan said.
Malaysia, Australia and China agreed in July that the $160 million search will be suspended once the current stretch southwest of Australia is exhausted unless new evidence emerges that would pinpoint a specific location of the aircraft.
Oceanographers are analyzing the wing flap, known as a flaperon, found on Reunion Island off the African coast in July last year — 16 months after the plane went missing — in the hope of narrowing a possible next search area adjoining the current search boundary.
Six replicas of the flaperon have been sent to Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s oceanography department in the island state of Tasmania where scientists will determine whether it is the wind or the currents that affect how they drift. This will enable more accurate drift modeling than is currently available.
“I really don’t think there should be a huge gap between when they hope to complete the search in December and when they remobilize the search because that will take time,” Nathan said.
“I don’t think there should even be a suspension. I think they should try and work toward defining the new search area now before the current search area ends and use the same assets,” she said.
In Canberra, the relatives will meet with officials at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is conducting the search on behalf of Malaysia. The bureau is also examining a wing flap found on the coast of Tanzania.
The bureau said in a statement the relatives in Perth would meet with officials from Joint Agency Coordination Center, which coordinates Australian government involvement in the search and liaises with victims’ families.
Nathan said they will also meet in Perth with Western Australia University oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi, whose study of where the flaperon washed up suggests the plane crashed north of the current search area.