MH370 search: families, independent investigators launch recovery efforts

Top arrow is the independent investigator search area, bottom arrow is ATSB search area.

Top arrow is the independent investigator search area, bottom arrow is ATSB search area. Photo: Mike Chillit

Relatives of missing passengers and independent investigators are beginning their own searches for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 amid frustrations that the Australian government-led hunt will fail to locate the jet.

MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, including six Australians, disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014, sparking a southern Indian Ocean search that entered its 1000th day on Saturday.

However, some MH370 relatives are hoping to persuade governments to expand the search area along the east African coast, while independent sleuths are planning to launch their own search mission north of the current scan zone.

As of September 2016, four pieces of confirmed MH370 debris had been found on Africa’s east coast. Two other pieces had been found on islands to the east of Madagascar.

“We want to speak to as many people [on the east African coast] as we can. We want to especially speak to NGOs, to the missionaries, to the churches who have outreach programmes,” said Grace Subathirai Nathan, a spokeswoman for Members of Voice 370, a MH370 next-of-kin support group.

“We can talk to people who work as fishermen, people who live on the coastline. We hope that we can raise awareness, teach them how to identify debris, how to collect debris, what to do with it when they find it.”

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in its latest operational update on November 30 that the search would be completed by late January or early February 2017.

This is due to be when the ATSB-led team completed scouring the 120,000 square kilometre target area.

mh370 debris map

Click to enlarge this MH370 debris map.

If nothing is found before that date the multi-million-dollar hunt for MH370 will conclude.

Members of Voice 370 hope their trip will help spur the Malaysian, Chinese and Australian governments to collect debris along the African coast where parts from the aircraft had been found.

Three pieces of debris found on the beaches of Mauritius, Tanzania and the French island of Reunion, have been confirmed to be from MH370.

Investigators are examining several other pieces.

These were found in places including Mozambique and South Africa.

‘Looking in the wrong place’

An American statistician and independent investigator believes MH370 is not resting in the 120,000-sq/km zone the ATSB has spent over 1000 days searching.

He has calculated the aircraft is further north and is working to lead his own search team to that area.

Mike Chillit has also used Google Earth to find what he claims are images of other pieces of debris north-east of Mauritius.

The locations of the confirmed and suspected MH370 debris, Mr Chillit argues, proves the search zone should be moved north.

“All of the debris found to date almost certainly originated west of Exmouth, Shark Bay, and Geraldton (all WA),” he wrote on his blog. “There is a 600 km strip of seafloor there that almost certainly has the plane. We need to go there.”

In a later piece, Mr Chillit explained his numerous investigative blog posts into the MH370 mystery were written to work toward an independent search.

“This [Mr Chillit’s work] is also part of the preparation for a privately funded effort to determine the plane’s exact location.

“The upcoming private effort will not attempt to recover the plane if it is found. That will be left to next of kin and governments with legal authority to make such decisions.”

He is hoping to raise money for a side scan sonar search of the area and to hire deep water searchers Williamson and Associates who were originally considered, but overlooked, for the ATSB-led search.

– with AAP

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