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Sunday March 23, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday March 23, 2014 MYT 11:35:34 AM
by lim ai lee
Firman Chandra Siregar
AS the hours drag into days and now weeks, the anguish and agony felt by the families of the 239 on board the missing MH370 have become even more profound. For their loved ones, these people from 14 countries are more than just another statistic - they are doting grandparents, caring mums and dads, filial sons and daughters, loving spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends and cuddly little ones just waiting to be hugged.
Whether they are ordinary folk, crew members, world famous artists or top-notch engineers, everyone is unique in his or her own way and equally cherished.
To share their stories, Sunday Star has looked up their Facebook and Weibo pages as well as news websites around the world to find out more about some of these special people.
The night before Firman Chandra Siregar, 24, flew to Beijing, he called home to comfort his worried parents in Indonesia who were concerned about recent reports of terrorism in south Yunnan. A graduate of the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Firman (centre) was immediately accepted at American-owned oil company Schlumberger after completing his degree.
His father C. H. Siregar described Firman as a smart kid and said he was attending an orientation exercise in Malaysia prior to his Beijing trip.
The boyfriend from Mongolia
Hailing from inner Mongolia, Yue Wenchao, 26, moved to Britain to study a postgraduate course at the University of Hull Business School. He had just visited his Malaysian girlfriend in Kuala Lumpur and even posted photos of him eating the premium Musang King durian. Before his flight took off at 12.41am on March 8, Yue posted a message to his girlfriend on Weibo, “See u in Beijing!”.
All in the Hu family
Hu Siwan, 3, or Pan Pan (her nickname) is the apple of daddy’s eyes. She is seen here with her doting father, Hu Xiaoning, 34.
Her mum Zhang Na, 34, often posts photos of Siwan and her dad on the Weibo microblogging site. One of them reads “Daddy, Pan Pan is so blissful to have you!” and “Let us live together, happily ever after!”. The family of three live in Beijing.
A Sacred Heart girl
From Malacca, chief stewardess Goh Sock Lay is an alumnus of Sacred Heart Convent Malacca class of 1986.
Her 14-year-old daughter has been crying non-stop since learning about the missing MH370 flight.
“I am hoping for a miracle to happen,” said her father-in-law Choi Tat Sang.
A scholar on vacation
Malaysian student Tony Tan Wei Chew, 19, recently graduated from St Andrew’s Junior College (SAJC) in Singapore and was on the way to Beijing for a vacation with his dad Tan Ah Meng, 46, and Taiwanese mum Chuang Hsiuling, 45.
His former room-mate Aaron Quek told The Straits Times that Tan had plans to study in the United States after getting his A-levels results early this month. Tan received a scholarship at the age of 15 to study in Singapore.
His two younger brothers were not on the flight.
Escaping the smoggy skies
Barely two, Wang Moheng was on a family vacation in Malaysia with his parents and grandparents to escape Beijing’s smoggy skies. Wang Rui, Moheng’s father, worked in the Beijing office of Boston Consulting Group, an American company while his mum Jiao Weiwei, worked at a Chinese software company. Her parents were also on the plane.
“They said to other parents at our day-care centre: ‘We’re getting away from the bad air in Beijing for a while’,” Xie Yongzhen, whose son has been a playmate of Moheng, told The New York Times.
Quest for a new life in Europe
Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 18, was one of two Iranians who went on board MH370 with a fake passport, giving rise to initial suspicions of a terror link to the disappearance of the aircraft. But it turned out that the teenager from Karaj, Iran was seeking a new life in Europe and hoping to join his mother in Germany. He even posted on his Facebook about “feeling excited” upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur two weeks before he boarded MH370.
A brilliant mind
Penang-born Guan Huajin is one of 20 employees (12 Malaysians and eight from China) of Austin-based technology company Freescale Semiconductor, most of them top engineers who were on their way to Beijing on a business trip,
Guan, 34, is married with two children, aged four and one-and-a-half years, and the family live in Kuala Lumpur.
A gentle American
The only American adult on board, Philip Wood is an IBM executive from Texas going to Beijing for business.
The 51-year-old father of two graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 1985 and is described in the university’s Facebook page as “gentle, kind, had great taste in music and was a wonderful artist.”
His mother Sandra Wood told USA Today that she knew in her heart that “Philip’s with God.”
Passenger No. 57
Suhaili Mustafa from Shah Alam is another engineer heading to Beijing for work. On the day MH370 went missing, her uncle, Kuching police chief ASP Roslan Bek, said he was informed by his sister that Suhaili was passenger No. 57 on the list released by MAS. Her former university mate Airin Diana at Purdue University in the US describes Suhaili as a very cheerful person and brilliant student on the Pray for MH370 website.
Flight steward Tan Size Hiang is a family-oriented man who not only takes care of his own wife and five-year-old daughter but his siblings and parents as well.
Tan, 46, is very passionate about his job, and would always share his in-flight experiences with his family. According to his brother Kenny on the Sharelor website, Tan would call his father before and after his flights. He has worked with Malaysia Airlines for almost 18 years.
He is seen here posing with Malaysian child actress Crystal Lee.
Corporate man in Middle Kingdom
“Still adjusting to life in the Middle Kingdom”, Canadian national Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, vice-president of China operations for Xcoal Energy and Resources since 2012, tweeted recently. He and his wife Bai Xiaomo, 37, were heading back to Beijing after a romantic beach getaway to Vietnam.
The couple’s two young boys were not travelling with them. The Telegraph identified Mukherjee as a grandson of former minister Mohan Kumaramangalam, who served in the Indira Gandhi Cabinet.
Indonesian Sugianto Lo, 47, was on the Beijing-bound flight with his wife Vinny Chynthia, 47, as their three children stayed home with their grandparents.
Jhony Taslim, a family friend, said that Sugianto’s family had flown to Malaysia to seek more information about their missing family members. “The entire family is still hopeful,” he said last week.
Mohd Sofuan Ibrahim, 33, posted a Facebook photo before boarding flight MH370 - that was the last his family and friends had any contact with him. Sofuan was starting work with Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Ministry and originally scheduled to leave for the Chinese capital last month for a three-year stint. The trip was, however, postponed and he left on March 8.
The techno freak
“Very reserved but very, very intelligent ... a bit of a techno-freak and he made a lot of circuits and projects at engineering college.” This is how 23-year-old Swawand Kolekar is described by his close friend Archit Joshi. Residents of Yogi Nagar in Borivli, India, Swawand and his parents Chetana, 55, and Vinod Kolekar, 59, were on their way to meet Sanved, Swawand’s eldest brother, who works in Beijing. They were among the five Indians on board MH370.
Soulmates on a trip
Aussies Mary and Rodney Burrows from Middle Park, Australia, are the hard-working parents of two successful daughters and a son, according to their neighbour Mandy Watt who described them as soulmates. Rodney had planned his trip to China after being laid off last year, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Our own Rain
Mohd Hazrin Mohamed Hasnan, flight MH370 steward is a jovial chap who loves posting photos on Instagram. One notable image from Instagram that @rainhasnan posted is this one he took with Chef Wan on a flight to Dubai. He even made a joke about nasi lemak: “@chefwan58 jom makan nasi lemak.. heheheh.. anyway it’s being a pleasure serving u onboard flight to dxb.”
Originally from Petaling Jaya, Hazrin or “Rain” as he is known on Facebook studied at SM Subang Jaya, according to the Sharelor blog.
A late bloomer from Hangzhou
At 65, former nurse An Wenlan pursued a new passion in painting and made a name for herself after a few years of hard work. Her specialty is her realistic portrayal of flowers like peony and plum blossom, Apple Daily Hong Kong reported.
An began painting seriously in 2010, after a restaurant in Hangzhou stopped her from taking photographs of a peony painting hanging in there. An was among a group of 19 Chinese artists on board MH370. Other artists include famous calligrapher Liu Rusheng, 77, and Dong Guowei, 48, who is the chairman of Artists Association of Lishui county in Nanjing.
The kung fu master
A Hollywood stuntman, Ju Kun (right) has doubled for martial arts actor Jet Li and his kung fu skills have been featured in films such as Fearless. Before starting work on a new Netflix and Weinstein Company series Marco Polo in Malaysia, the 35-year-old was on his way to Beijing to see his two young children.
Ju’s Marco Polo co-fight choreographer Brett Chan told The Star that his martial arts are comparable to none. “I have not come across someone so excellent and diverse and adaptive in his craft. He is dependable, trustworthy and a great friend. He raises the bar in every aspect - in martial arts and as a person.”
The bubbly engineer
Malaysian Ch’ng Mei Ling, 33, is “very well-respected in her job and a very happy and pleasant person.” This is how Tracy Kilgore, a spokeswoman for Eastman Chemical describes Ch’ng, a senior process engineer in the company’s plant in Pennsylvania. Ch’ng was initially hired in 2005 in Malaysia and transferred to the Pennsylvania facility, which produces chemicals used in the rubber industry, in 2010.
Her uncle said she was travelling on transit between Beijing and the United States.
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