ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Family members of those lost aboard a Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing in 2014 criticised Malaysian investigators on Sunday for not doing enough to find debris, which could give more clues about what happened.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, sparking a search in the southern Indian Ocean that continues.
Grace Nathan, who lost her mother, said families wanted authorities to focus more on finding debris from the plane. The search has so far been entirely funded by well-wishers and the families of the missing, she said.
“There should not be a situation where the relatives of people on the plane have to keep funding the search,” she told Reuters in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.
Aslam Khan, one of the Malaysian investigators who arrived in Antananarivo on Sunday, said it was incorrect to suggest the inquiry was winding down.
He said criticism of the investigation team for failing to collect the debris was “fair comment.”
“We are here now,” he said. “Once we have had a physical examination of it (the debris) we will be in a position to say more.”
Seven representatives of the families are expected to meet investigators on Monday and see the investigators take custody of six pieces of debris that have washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar over the past six months.
A total of 33 pieces suspected to be from the plane have been found so far, including parts of the wings and tail, in La Reunion, Mozambique, South Africa, Mauritius and Tanzania.
Three pieces have been confirmed by the Malaysian authorities as belonging to MH370, including a flaperon from the tail which they said showed the pilots were not in control of the plane when it crashed.
But more suspected pieces remain with local authorities.
“The fact that in six months they haven’t collected this debris reflects their lack of seriousness about the search,” said Nathan.
Blaine Gibson, an American lawyer turned self-funded sleuth, has spent more than a year combing beaches across the region where the plane disappeared.
He found part of a wing in Mozambique that authorities confirmed was probably from MH370 and more than 10 pieces of debris in Madagascar, including a seat back.
The wreckage could reveal how the plane was downed, he said.
“They can test for traces of explosive or any sort of shrapnel, if it was a high-speed forceful impact, which is what it looks like because the pieces are small and shredded,” he said.
For the past two years, the search for the body of the plane has focussed on a deep sea area of more than 120,000 square kilometres (46,300 square miles) in the Indian Ocean.
Ghislain Wattrelos, a Frenchman who lost his wife and two teenage children in the crash, said the families wanted more focus on debris.
“We are spending quite a big amount of money trying to find a plane (in the sea) where it is not,” he said. “I don’t know why they are spending so much money doing this when it’s easier to try and find the debris.”
“It’s been 1,000 days and we still have no clue what happened to my family.”
Editing by Katharine Houreld and Susan Fenton