KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — They say lightning never strikes twice, but in 2014 Malaysians and the world were stunned by the unthinkable: three aviation disasters involving Malaysia, all in the same year.
There were two major aviation disasters involving the country’s flag carrier Malaysia Airlines Systems Bhd (MAS) in the space of four months in March and July.
Then four days before the end of 2014, Indonesia AirAsia which is 49 per cent owned by Kuala Lumpur-based low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd lost a plane over the Java Sea.
The first disaster involving Flight MH370 was dubbed “unprecedented” by many, and till now nobody knows what happened to the jetliner which just “vanished” into thin air after it was last tracked over the southern Indian Ocean on March 8.
When Flight MH17 was later shot down over strife-torn Ukraine on July 18, Malaysians could not believe their luck, leading Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to declare the date as “a tragic day in an already tragic year.”
Faced with a tragedy for the second time, Najib however managed to seal a timely deal with pro-Russian rebels to bring back the bodies of those on board and the flight recorders. The debris is currently under investigation in the Netherlands.
Another incident involving Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 on December 28 sealed a horrendous year for the aviation industry.
Yesterday, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) found debris and bodies in the waters 160km southwest of Pangkalan Bun in central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Including crew members, 50 Malaysians were onboard MH370 when it went missing. A further 43 including crew members perished on MH17. There was one Malaysian passenger on board QZ8501.
The death toll is 94 Malaysians killed in air disasters this year.
The two MAS incidents, however, managed to galvanise a nation torn by the divisive 13th general election the year before, as people came up with independent campaigns to express their solidarity with the stricken carrier and with each other.
This did not last very long, however, as Muslim groups and Islamist party PAS later demanded that the national carrier implement a Shariah-compliant model, including covering up its stewardess and banning the serving of alcohol onboard.
MAS was already bleeding money prior to the disasters, and its fate was sealed when it was delisted this month as Putrajaya-owned fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd prepares to bankroll a new entity out of its ashes.
For more on what happened with #QZ8501: