The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, or ATSB, denied speculation that the GO Phoenix, a vessel involved in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, had found something that prompted it to stop in the southern Indian Ocean for nearly 24 hours, News Corp Australia reported Monday. The Australian vessel had joined the search on Tuesday.
An ATSB spokesperson reportedly said that GO Phoenix experienced an issue with its towfish over the weekend, forcing it to halt the search at the location, which has been considered as the probable crash site of the missing Boeing 777. Bad weather conditions have reportedly hampered the search operations, which resumed Wednesday with three survey vessels -- GO Phoenix, Fugro Discovery and Fugro Equator. A towfish is a sonar scanning system that can be towed alongside a ship and has been used to look for the missing plane.
“The issue has been rectified however severe weather has delayed a safe redeployment of the towfish and recommencement of search operations,” the spokesman reportedly said.
American search watcher Mike Chillit, who has closely followed the vessel’s operation on satellite maps, said earlier that the sudden halt of the vessel in the last couple of days could be because it had found something of importance to the search mission.
Meanwhile, relatives of the passengers of MH370 criticized Malaysia Airlines after reports surfaced that the company might officially declare the jet lost by the end of the year. The families reportedly said that the decision is “agonizing and confusing” as the search for the jetliner resumed in September after a four-month long break.
"The families and next-of-kin of MH370 passengers have had to endure tremendous emotional stress due to a void in official and reliable information,” Voice370, an official group for the families of the missing plane's passengers said, according to The Malaysian Insider. "The latest blow was the statement by MAS commercial director Hugh Dunleavy last week that MH370 might be declared officially lost by the end of the year."
Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 with 239 people on board, triggering what has been the most expensive aviation investigation so far, but one that has not produced a single clue as to the plane's whereabouts.
Dunleavy reportedly said last week that both the Australian and Malaysian governments were in talks to finalize a date to declare Flight MH370 as officially lost.
"Is Dunleavy's statement an accurate reflection of the real behind-the-scenes decision of both governments and is he authorised to make such a statement? Moreover, is Dunleavy implying that the compensation is coming from the empty coffers of MAS?" Voice370 said in a statement Monday, according to The Malaysian Insider. "We are wondering whether the insurers have a hand in this forced closure agenda."
Last week, Dunleavy had assured the families of MH370 passengers that they would soon receive compensation, The New Zealand Herald reported. "We don't have a final date but once we've had an official loss recorded we can work with the next of kin on the full compensation payments for those families.”