CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government minister in charge of the suspended seabed search for the Malaysia Airlines jet told victims’ families and friends at an anniversary church service on Wednesday that he remained hopeful that Flight 370 would be found.
“While to date we have been unsuccessful, we remain hopeful that at some stage in the future, there will be a breakthrough, the aircraft will be found, and we will be able to answer more of your questions,” said Darren Chester, minister for infrastructure and transport.
The Malaysian government said that although Australia, Malaysia and China in January suspended the sonar search for the airliner after a sweep of 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean, “we remain ever hopeful that we will be able to find the answers we seek when the credible evidence becomes available.”
Chester and Angus Houston, the former Australian defence chief who coordinated the early months of the search efforts, were among around 100 who attended the private ceremony at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in the east city of Brisbane to mark the third anniversary of the mysterious tragedy.
Several victims and relatives of the 239 passengers and crew aboard the Boeing 777, which flew far off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, 2014, live in or near Brisbane.
Chester told the congregation that included families of New Zealand victim Paul Weeks, and Australians Robert and Catherine Lawton and Rodney and Mary Burrows that searchers had tried their best to end the uncertainty surrounding the crash. He also said that a memorial to the lost passengers and crew would be erected in the west coast city of Perth, which had been a base for Indian Ocean air and sea search crews.
Chester said before the service that he understood the frustration that many would feel on the anniversary of the tragedy that there was no longer an active search for the crash site.
Jeanette Maguire, sister of passenger Catherine Lawton, said the relatives appreciated that the Australian government had invited them to such a memorial service.
“The government didn’t have to do that and it was very special that they wanted to do something to ensure our families didn’t feel forgotten,” Maguire said.