Friends of a former Montreal couple say they are still in shock after learning Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, and Bai Xiaomo, 37, were on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing over the weekend.
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“When I found out they were on the plane, it was a shock,” said Robert Godmer, a Montreal real estate agent who sold the couple a home when they lived in Montreal 10 years ago.
'When I found out they were on the plane, it was a shock.' —Robert Godmer, Montreal friend
“We were waiting and waiting for the news. We hope there will only be good news,” he said, adding that he kept in touch with the couple even after they moved away from Montreal.
“They were very nice people — very good people. They always accepted me and trusted me.”
One of the couple’s close friends, Matthew McConkey, told CBC Radio’s As It Happens that he’s shocked, but resigned, about the situation.
“I’m personally fairly realistic about what the eventual outcome of what this will be.… It’s unreal. When something like this happens in the world, it catches people’s attention and people say, ‘Oh it didn’t happen to me,’ or ‘I don’t know anyone on that flight.’ It’s one of those situations where I can’t say that this time,” McConkey said through tears from his home in Washington.
A '21st-century family'
Mukherjee and Bai lived in Beijing and were returning from vacation in Vietnam to their two sons, Mirav, 8 and Miles, 4.
'They did everything for the kids.' —Matthew McConkey, family friend
The couple got married and lived in Montreal for several years before moving to Chicago, and ultimately Beijing.
“They are the 21st-century family. Muktesh was born in India, Xiaomo was born in China. They were living in Beijing, with grandparents and family living all over the world,” McConkey said, adding that Muktesh met his wife while he was on a business trip in Beijing.
McConkey said Xiaomo’s parents lived in Beijing, too, and they had strong family values.
“They loved to travel. They were a very tight-knit family unit. They did everything for the kids.”
McConkey also said that whenever he travelled to Beijing for work, Mukherjee was the first person he called.
“Muktesh was one of these guys who always had a smile on his face. He was always up for doing something.”
McConkey last saw the couple and their sons during his last trip to China about a month ago. They’d made plans to meet again this summer in the U.S.
“I sat on the apartment floor for an hour talking to the boys. I remember walking out the door, and turning back to Mirav and saying, ‘I’ll see you this summer at my house because your mom and dad are going to bring you.’”
McConkey said the couple’s sons are in the care of their grandparents.
“The difficulty right now is dealing with the children, and what to tell them.… They were a lovely couple and I’m going to miss them dearly, and my heart goes out to those children. Their innocence is going to be lost very soon.”