With the battery power for the black box of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane expected to run out imminently, the race is on to track the pings and find the resting place of the jet – and with it, the 239 people on board.
For nearly a month, the families of the passengers and crew have waited for conclusive evidence of the fate and whereabouts of the Boeing 777 airliner, which lost contact with the ground on March 8 during a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
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Malaysian authorities have said they believe the plane went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.
While the majority of the people on board — 154 — were Chinese, the 227 passengers and 12 crew members came from 14 different countries: Canada, the U.S., France, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, the Netherlands, India, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and Indonesia.
The passengers included a Canadian couple living in Beijing, a group of famous Chinese artists, 20 employees of a Texas semiconductor firm, a Hollywood stuntman and a pair of Malaysian honeymooners.
Here’s a closer a look at the stories of some of the passengers on the missing plane.
Muktesh Mukherjee and Xiaomo Bai
Canadian citizens Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, and, Xiaomo Bai, 37, had been vacationing together in Vietnam and were returning home to their two young sons in Beijing.
Mukherjee comes from a prominent Indian family. His grandfather, Mohan Kumaramangalam, had been a minister in Indira Gandhi’s administration responsible for steel and mines, while his father, Malay Mukherjee, became an executive with Luxembourg-based steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal.
After earning a post-graduate degree at McGill University, Muktesh Mukherjee followed his father to ArcelorMittal. The younger Mukherjee left ArcelorMittal and joined U.S.-based Xcoal Energy & Resources, which ships metallurgical coal around the world.
Mukherjee and Bai met in Beijing, after she was hired to be his guide and translator. The couple has two sons: Mirav, 9, and Miles, 2.
The family owned a condo in Montreal for a few years before moving to Chicago, where they still have a house.
Prominent Chinese artists
Among the passengers were 19 artists, some of whom are regarded as major figures in the Chinese art scene. They were returning from a calligraphy and painting exhibition in Malaysia.
The group included:
- Meng Gaosheng, 63, a famed calligrapher;
- Painter Wang Linshi, 69;
- Liu Rusheng, the 76-year-old director of Nanjing Painting and Calligraphy Academy who was renowned for his portraiture as well as his paintings of birds and flowers.
“I feel very sad. Even though I knew them for a short time, they have become my friends,” said Daniel Liau, who arranged the exhibit in Malaysia, in an interview with the Associated Press. “All of them are very famous in China.”
Three generations of a Chinese family
The youngest passenger was 23-month-old Wang Moheng, who was one of three generations of a Chinese family on board the plane, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Wang Rui, an executive at the Boston Consulting Group, his wife Jiao Weiwei, their young son and Jiao’s parents, Jiao Wenxue and mother Dai Shuling, were all returning from a vacation in Sabah in eastern Malaysia.
Trained in kung fu, Ju Kun was a stuntman in Hollywood, doubling for martial arts actor Jet Li in Fearless (2006) and The Expendables (2010). Ju was on his way to visit his children in Beijing before starting work on Marco Polo, a new Netflix and Weinstein Company series being shot in Malaysia.
Noted Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai and actress Zhang Ziyi paid a tearful tribute to Ju at the Asian Film Awards in Macau on March 27.
Brett Chan, a fight choreographer on Marco Polo, told one of Malaysia’s English-language papers that Ju is an exceptional individual: “He raises the bar in every aspect – in martial arts and as a person.”
Norli Akmar Hamid and Muhammad Razahan Zamani
Among the passengers were Muhammad Razahan Zamani and Norli Akmar Hamid, a young Malaysian couple who had recently been married and were going to spend their honeymoon in Beijing.
Zamani’s cousin, Mohammad Sahril Shaari, told CNN that his cousin had never been outside of Malaysia before. He had saved for a year to make the trip happen.
Employees of semiconductor firm
The flight manifest included 20 employees of Texas-based Freescale Semiconductor, which produces microchips for a variety of applications and customers, including the military. The employees included 12 Malaysian nationals and eight from China.
Mitch Haws, vice-president of global communications and investor relations for Freescale Semiconductor, told Reuters this team was working to improve the efficiency of the company's chip facilities in Kuala Lumpur and Tianjin, China.
“These were people with a lot of experience and technical background, and they were very important people,” Haws said.
Freescale has not released the names of the employees.
One of two New Zealanders on board, 39-year-old Paul Weeks was headed to Mongolia to begin a new job in the mining industry. He was scheduled to spend a month away from his wife, Danica, and two young sons - three-year-old Lincoln and 11-month-old Jack.
Prior to leaving, Weeks reportedly removed his wedding ring and watch and gave them to Danica with implicit instructions, she told Australia's 9News.
Quoting her husband, Danica Weeks said, "If something should happen to me, then the wedding ring should go to the first son that gets married and the watch to the second.”