Flight MH370: All hope disappears as family grieves for dad

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Airline says it will continue its support for MH370 families.

An Australian Air Force Orion completes its 11-hour search on Monday for the missing plane. Picture / AP
An Australian Air Force Orion completes its 11-hour search on Monday for the missing plane. Picture / AP

It was the news Paul Weeks' family had been dreading.

Malaysia Airlines yesterday announced they were sure Flight MH370, which Mr Weeks had been a passenger on, had been lost in remote seas off Perth. His wife, Danica, is said to be distraught following the announcement and was being comforted by family and friends.

Her mother, Kay Thompson, is with the couple's young sons, Lincoln, 3, and 11-month-old Jack.

Photos: RNZAF Orion searches for missing plane

Asked how they family were coping she said: "You can imagine how we feel.

We have been waiting for two weeks and I guess everyone hoped for something better than this. But that is the way it is and we are all dreadfully sad."

The family moved to Perth from Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake.

The family is based just 10 minutes' drive from the RAAF Pearce base - where aircraft helping with the search missions have been taking off over the past week.

Photos: The faces of flight 370

Malaysia Airlines yesterday said it was dealing with an "unprecedented" crisis. The airline has offered continued support of families connected to 370, including financial aid, accommodation, meals and flights to Australia.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur last night, the airline's chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said each family had received US$5000 ($5842) and another payout was likely to be offered to families in the next few days.

Complimentary hotel accommodation and meals would also continue and fares would be provided for any family members wishing to be closer to the search missions, in Australia.

"We are here to support the families and make sure we fulfil their wishes," Mr Yahya said. "This is an unprecedented event. We will be looking at an unprecedented way to solve this."

Video: Malaysian flight MH370 crashed

The airline's promise to continue to help families follows some criticism of the text message sent by the airline early yesterday (NZT). Relatives were briefed shortly before Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivered a heartbreaking announcement - that transmission data confirmed the missing plane had crashed into the Indian Ocean, near Perth, and it was unlikely anyone had survived.

Some have criticised the move, but the airline has defended it, saying it simply wanted to make sure families were made aware of anything new before anyone else.

"Our sole motivation ... was to ensure the families heard the tragic news before the world did. We used SMS [text message] as a last resort. Ever since the disappearance, our focus has been to comfort and support the families involved and to support the search effort."

Video: MH370: Family members grieve

Other families had been told the news via a phone call.

Meanwhile, bad weather saw search missions called off yesterday. Aircraft are expected to be back in the air again today, with weather forecasters predicting improved conditions over the search region.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken to Mr Razak to offer help with the ongoing search and investigation.

"What up until now has been a search, moves into a recovery and investigation phase," Mr Abbott said. "I have offered Malaysia every assistance and co-operation from Australia."

In Perth, Vice Chief of the Defence Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin outlined how difficult that made the hunt. "We're not searching for a needle in a haystack we're still trying to define where the haystack is."

- Agencies

- NZ Herald

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