MH370: Families wage citizen campaign to solve mystery

MH370: Families wage citizen campaign to solve mystery
Children write messages of hope for passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) outside Kuala Lumpur June 14, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR - Chinese physics student Jimmy Wang had no interest in aviation until March 8, when Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 went missing with his 58-year-old father Wang Lijun aboard.

Wang, 31, now spends evenings in central China combing through aviation blogs for Boeing 777 technical specs, exchanging what he finds with fellow MH370 next-of-kin.

He is one of hundreds of relatives who - desperate to learn the fate of their loved ones - are channeling their grief in a cross-border, social-media-enabled, but so far frustrating citizen campaign to solve aviation's greatest mystery.

Wang had abandoned his studies in Sweden to be with his grieving mother. "I cannot live the rest of my life in questions," Wang said via Skype from his home in the city of Anyang.

Through Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo - 153 Chinese were aboard MH370 - a closed Facebook group, and Skype "meetings" of up to dozens of people, participants exchange findings, discuss the latest theories, and proposals for group action.

The group, calling itself Voice370 with some 300 members, receives and debates advice from aviation, legal and other experts, while similar groups formed after previous disasters such as the 2009 Air France crash offer support.

While some face-to-face meetings have been held, most exchanges are conducted via webcam or extensive email strings, with members voting on strategies.

In doing so, they juggle time zones and language barriers - "meetings" are held mainly in English, with bilingual Chinese translating for their countrymen.

"It's really quite a community," said Sarah Bajc, an American whose partner Philip Wood was on the flight.

"I feel compelled to do everything in my power to find Philip. We owe it to them."

Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

No trace has been found despite an extensive, Australian-led search in the southern Indian Ocean.

Bajc said the MH17 underlines the importance of Voice370, particularly the need to highlight "critical flaws" in global aviation.

MAS Flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17 as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft is believed to have been shot down over the troubled country.

Forty-three Malaysians perished in the tragedy.

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