As families lit white candles and remembered loved ones who vanished aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, they were given new hope Saturday that the world's biggest aviation mystery might soon be solved.
It's been four years since the plane, which was carrying 239, went missing over the Indian Ocean. A new search that stretches across thousands of miles of the sea could likely conclude in June.
Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, made the announcement at a remembrance event near Kuala Lumpur Saturday that marked the plane's disappearance.
“The whole world, including the next of kin, have (new) hope to find the plane for closure,” Azharuddin told the Associated Press. “For the aviation world, we want to know what exactly happened to the plane.”
Malaysia and Ocean Infinity, a company based in Houston, Texas, came to a deal in January to start a new search for the plane. The company will only be paid if successful.
The official search by the Australia, Malaysia and China governments was called off in January 2017 after nearly three years. Officials have said no transmissions were received from the aircraft after it's first couple minutes in air, thus making the search very difficult.
Grace Nathan, whose mother was aboard the plane, told those at the remembrance event Saturday that she just wanted to understand what happened.
"We still really, really miss all the people we love," she said. "We still don't know what happened to them."
She and other family members wore shirts commemorating four years since their loved ones went missing.
Ocean Infinity started the search on Jan. 22 and has 90 search days to look for the plane. Azharuddin said the 90-day term will spread over a few months because the search vessel has to refuel in Australia and bad weather could be a factor, the Associated Press reported.
The firm has not yet had any significant findings.
There were pieces of debris found from the Indian Ocean and along Africa's east coast previously. At least three pieces were confirmed to have came from the plane.
Officials have said there was an 85 percent chance of finding the debris in a new 9,650-square-mile search area – roughly the size of Vermont – identified by experts, but the firm did not want to give families too much hope.
If the mission is successful within three months, payment will be made based on the size of the area searched. Malaysia says it will pay Ocean Infinity $20 million for 1,930 square miles of a successful search, $30 million for 5,790 square miles, $50 million for 9,653 square miles and $70 million if the plane or flight recorders are found beyond the identified area, according to the Associated Press.
The plane vanished March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The passengers on board represented 14 nationalities and included a couple returning to their sons after a beach getaway and a construction worker making his first trip home in a year.
Investigators have not determined what went wrong on the plane and theories have ranged from terrorism to mechanical failures to disintegrating in mid-air. None have been proven.
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