BEIJING: Families of the Chinese passengers on board missing Flight MH370 are seeking legal advice to initiate lawsuits against the companies involved in the tragedy.
A committee, which was set up by the families last week to represent their interests, is in talks with Chicago-based law firm Ribbeck Law over a possible group lawsuit against Malaysia Airlines, said a panel member who works in France but returned to China because his parents were on the plane.
The committee member, who did not want to be identified, said the families were considering hiring a foreign law firm because “they are more experienced”.
China Daily reported that the committee was still soliciting opinions from all relatives.
Zhang Qihuai, vice-president of aviation law research for the China Law Society, said some families had asked him about the possible lawsuits.
The MH370 jetliner carried 227 passengers and 12 crew including 154 Chinese nationals. It has been missing since its departure from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8.
On March 24, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the aircraft “ended” its flight in the southern Indian Ocean.
Zhang said usually the families could file a lawsuit at the conclusion of an air crash but this tragedy was special. “And, since Malaysia has announced the plane crash, the families could turn to the courts now,” he said.
In PUTRAJAYA, family representatives who had been in Malaysia since March 12 awaiting news of the fate of their loved ones handed over a petition to China’s special envoy Zhang Yesui yesterday.
The representatives hoped that the Chinese government would investigate the truth behind the incident.
According to the petition, they wanted the government to set up an investigation office for the missing plane and establish an effective communication channel with the committee via telephone, email or social media.
Considering the last position of the plane was in the southern India Ocean, they hoped that the Malaysian authorities could set up a monument in Perth or at a nearby area for the MH370 passengers so that relatives could hold a memorial there.
Malaysia was also required to make an apology to relatives and explain the reasons for the misleading information and delay in the search, the families said.
At Lido Hotel in Beijing where regular briefings on MH370 were held, a high-level Malaysian team comprising Malaysian ambassador to China Datuk Iskandar Sarudin, Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) air operations commander Lt-Jeneral Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad, Department of Civil Aviation air traffic services director Ahmad Nizar Zolfakar and representatives from Malaysia Airlines, met with the Chinese families.
In their usual belligerent tone, the family members harped on specific details and raised speculative queries, putting the team on the spot.
A woman demanded Ackbal to tell the families whether the RMAF had the responsibility to protect the lives of passengers aboard an aircraft travelling in the Malaysian airspace.
Ackbal said: “We are not in a courtroom. The Chinese officers with us here have agreed that this team is to answer questions related to the search and rescue mission, but you’re getting into the legal aspect.”
Other questions raised included the time needed for the search team to cover the area in good and bad weather, and the make and service provider of the satellite phone in the aircraft.
The team promised to meet the families again today.