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'The relatives need more than our sympathy'
By Jan Rübel | Yahoo NewsroomFILE - In this Tuesday, March 25, 2014 file photo, Suwarni, the mother of Sugianto Lo, who was onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with his wife Vinny, shows her son's family portraits at her residence in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesians Sugianto Lo and his wife, Vinny Chynthya Tio, were taking a short break away from their three children, their first in more than 17 years as parents. It was hard. Family members had to convince them the children would be fine while they were gone. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara, File)
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo, he talks about his own experiences and gives advice about what could be done for the relatives now.
Mr Gans, when you heard about the missing Malaysian plane for the first time – what crossed your mind?
Bernd Gans: Suddenly I remembered back in 2009 when I heard: “A plane is missing.” And I knew that it was our daughter’s flight. At that time the airline Air France and the French local authorities had totally failed in their information policy. We felt alone and left in uncertainty. The only thing they told us was that the plane was missing. That is the worst that can happen to anyone.
Worse than the insidious certainty that somebody is dead?
Bernd Gans: Yes, because you always think further – you can‘t stop. What happened? Is there still hope? Did the passengers suffer? Will they be able to rescue the remains of the plane? Something terrible comes slowly up to you, and you can‘t avoid it.
Now you have written an open letter to the relatives. Why?
Bernd Gans: The relatives need more then sympathy of all of us. They must stand together. And they need to know what happened; only then will they be able to take leave. So now a loud voice is necessary to demand transparency and unreserved and independent clarifications. Then they won‘t be left so alone, as it happened to us back then.
Does the Malaysian government need pressure now?
Bernd Gans: They are already under huge pressure. There I also see the success of our letter. Since the Chinese relatives have clearly stepped on their government’s feet, Beijing criticised that the Malaysian would withhold information.
Are the Chinese doing it better than the German government back then?
Bernd Gans: Much better. We did not have any voice back then. The German Minister of Transport at that time, Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD), was indeed very eloquent, recited funeral orations and promised to do everything. But in reality he didn’t take a sole step against the French government.
Are you afraid that in this case things will also not be clarified?
Bernd Gans: There also hasn’t been any transparency so far. There are so many contradictions in the Malaysian information policy. And there are still only rumours about the cause of the crash. Back in 2009 we were led on by the French. Big organised searches were announced, but very few were carried out. Only after two years when we were called to the French Ministry of Transport again, the President Nicolas Sarkozy had just reshuffled his cabinet and the new minister wanted by all means an initial success – then suddenly two American managers of a company sat at the table. They promised that they would find the plane. And, lo and behold, after eight days they had the wreck. But all that could have been done two years earlier.
In your letter you write that the relatives in their terrible situation of uncertainty should also think of compensation. Why?
Bernd Gans: It sounds strange, but it‘s really important. Because the relatives have costs immediately. It is not pleasurable to talk about it, but it is like that. When somebody is missing, he is actually not pronounced dead. So a lot of arduous visits to the authorities and legal procedures are necessary in order to receive authorisation. And what happens when behind the missing people are the families to be supported – what happens to them? The relatives sit in hotels, waiting for news and they can‘t work.
What should be done?
Bernd Gans: We point to the Treaty of Montreal. There it is settled that every passenger with 100,000 special drawing rights is insured. This is a global agreement currency and corresponds to 115,000 Euros (RM517,000). 15 percent of this amount must be paid out, as soon as the beneficiary is identified. It must happen here and now – that was also delayed for us back then. That is our demand now.
So what do you think happened to flight MH370?
Bernd Gans: I can‘t participate in speculations. All that is too vague. But it has to be investigated in all directions. The suicide theory cannot be excluded – but then what does the second person do in the cockpit if they wanted to kill themselves? A technical fault is still possible, or a smouldering fire, which takes a considerable time to develop.
Do you consider things that never happen before to be possible? For example the landing on an artificial island?
Bernd Gans: No. It would be more likely that the plane had been shot down by a rocket. At least different sovereign territories have been flown over. Anyway, I think that the military are the ones who know the most on this matter, but they don‘t want to reveal this knowledge. Then one could conclude which possibilities of observation the respective armed forces have.
Should a so-called “Iron Bird” be employed with the reconstruction of events about the flight MH 370 - a test stand with which the manufacturer can check from the beginning of the production the whole flight control under real conditions?
Bernd Gans: I‘m sure that the two black boxes of the plane will be found. They store important information such as cockpit conversations and flight data. These could be entered in an “Iron Bird” in order to check what might have happened. That was denied to us. Apparently there were problems in the flight control – they just wanted to protect the aircraft manufacturer.
Could this happen again?
Bernd Gans: This time the Americans are responsible – the office of the aircraft manufacturer Boeing is located in the USA. And I believe that the Americans have a different attitude towards openness from the French. They will demand and carry out such examination.
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