For two years and more, it has been a lost ship, a metal container carrying 239 souls that simply disappeared one late Asian night never to be seen again. And now, the search for the remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 likely will become a thing of memory, too. With Friday’s announcement that the meticulous ocean search for the missing jetliner will be suspended in effect, called off one of this decade’s most tantalizing unanswered questions is headed toward becoming, in effect, a cold case. “I am not surprised it’s coming to an end without any answers,” Tony Wong, a businessman in Kuala Lumpur, said yesterday. “People are slowly forgetting the incident,” he said. “No one will ever know the truth.” The truth may be out there. The problem is, you have to know where to look. And that’s been precisely the problem all along. The Boeing 777-200ER vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. Investigators believed it turned back west and then south before dropping into the Indian Ocean west of Australia, where the search has been concentrated. The Malaysian government has concluded that it was deliberately steered off course. Conspiracy theories, unsurprisingly, still abound in the vacuum of facts: Was it blown up? Steered into the sea? Diverted to a remote airstrip somewhere? Abducted by aliens? For a long stretch, it seemed the world’s biggest loose end a global obsession for weeks, a niggling unsolved riddle for years.
And behind the epic tale were the lost souls and the families they left behind, which expected maximum effort and, to hear many relatives tell it over the long months, a successful resolution. They were not happy at the news that the search was being suspended. To varying degrees, they have accused investigators and searchers and the governments overseeing them of disingenuousness, incompetence and nefarious political agendas. In China, relatives have roundly denounced the decision. They still don’t seem ready to think about the finality of it all. “They are actually just playing with words,” Hu Xiufang, the mother of a Flight 370 passenger, said yesterday. “‘Suspension’ means termination to us. We strongly demand a re-investigation into how the plane went missing, and there is no excuse for the suspension of the search.”