KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Twelve colleagues, a family of three, a couple on honeymoon and a woman who had just celebrated her retirement over lunch earlier that day. These are some of the 38 Malaysians on board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.
Four days after their flight took off at midnight for Beijing, it feels like the whole world is looking for them. Well, to be more exact, 10 countries, 35 aircraft and 47 ships at the last count.
Among the 12 Malaysian Freescale Semiconductor employees who boarded MH370 on March 8 is 31-year-old Tong Soon Lee. He is supposed to get married later this year.
“Even the date has been set,” his uncle told The Malay Mail Online at the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya where the passengers’ next-of-kin are being housed.
The engineer, he said, is a very ambitious young man and a jovial person.
Then there is Datin Biby Nazli Mohd Hassim, 62, whom a family friend describes as being very down to earth.
“I call her Kak Biby. She loves to cook and will call us to her house in Penang during those days to cook for us footballers.
“They are very pleasant people even though her husband is a big shot,” he said.
Biby, the wife of former Celcom chief executive officer Datuk Mohamed Ramli Abbas, was travelling with her two daughters, Dina, 30 and Maria, 32 as well as her younger sister Noorida.
Just hours before boarding the late night flight, 57-year-old Noorida’s colleagues threw her a retirement party. According to the KL City Hall website, she was the Administrative Assistant Secretary at the Health and Environment Department. She was supposed to retire on April 1.
Having married for a year, young couple Muhammad Razahan Zamani, 24 and his wife Norliakmar Hamid, 33, finally decided to go for their honeymoon in Beijing, and boarded MH370 last Saturday morning.
For another family, the trip to Beijing was a chance to have a family vacation before their son went off to college.
Tan Ah Meng, 46, and his Taiwanese wife Chuang Hsiu Leng, 48, was taking their eldest son, who according to Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) had just graduated from St Andrew’s Junior College in Singapore, on vacation in Beijing while he waited to enrol in a US college.
Nineteen-year-old Tan Wei Chew, who attended the junior college at 15 on scholarship, has two younger brothers aged 14, and 12, according to the Singapore daily.
Another couple — Chen Weihoing, 42 and Tan Sioh Peng, 41 — were on vacation without their children. Their son Eric Chen, 15, told the New Straits Times (NST) his parents had skipped their routine of praying at a temple near their house in Klang before going on vacation. Chen has an 11-year-old brother.
Another passenger Chng Mei Ling, 33, who is an engineer for Flexsys America LP in Pennsylvania, had just bought a house in South Park township back in October 2013. Her neighbours told Post Gazette, however, that she was hardly around for them to get to know her.
Kuala Langat Umno division deputy chief Zurihan Yusop’s elder brother, 50-year-old Muzi, was also among the group of Freescale Semiconductor employees sent to Beijing for a one-month training. He is the production manager at the Kelana Jaya-based office.
Another employee, 32-year-old Ramlan Safuan checked in on his Facebook page at KLIA before boarding the flight.
The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) and the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) alumni’s post was followed by a friend’s joke about itik pancung and having dog soup in China.
Ramlan responded in disgust. He also told another friend, Din Tambang, that they would hang out when he returns.About 12 hours later, the same check-in post was flooded with messages from friends who were concerned about his whereabouts and pleaded for him to respond.
Meanwhile, mother of three Nor Fadzillah Mat Rahim, 37, was described as the “the best daughter-in-law”, a crying Hajah Puteh told The Malay Mail Online when approached.
Then there is Senior Marketing Manager at Malaysia Land Properties Sdn Bhd Stanley Wong Sai Sang who was not supposed to be on MH370, his wife said.
She said he had missed an earlier flight and was forced to take the later one. It was his birthday, but there wasn’t time to celebrate as he was rushing from work to the airport to catch the flight to Beijing.
Tan Ku Leng said her husband was with two other colleagues.
He was also Selangor executive councillor Ronnie Liu’s schoolmate at Sekolah Menengah Raub in Pahang.
Petronas Marketing Manager Puspanathan Subramaniam, 34, who was described as kind, helpful and very funny by a relative, was supposed to be on a work trip to Beijing for two weeks.
The Singapore daily also reported that he was looking forward to be back to celebrate her sister’s belated birthday.
Authorities, experts, family members and friends are still searching for answers four days on, as the Boeing 777-200 plane carrying 239 passengers and crew from 13 different countries, fell off the radar at 1.30am, March 8, some 120 nautical miles east of Kota Baru.
Malaysian authorities also announced that it would expand the search area for the Malaysia Airline jet missing since Saturday, doubling it to 100 nautical miles starting this morning.