The Year of Transportation disasters

It’s hard to forget the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 on March 8th, 2014.  The first in a series of unusual tragic disasters around the world, hitting Malaysia the hardest.  The routine flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China disappeared less than an hour after takeoff while over the South China Sea.  A multinational search began immediately for the Boeing 777 and it’s 227 passengers and 12 crew members.  The media was relentless in its coverage and in some cases aided in propagating numberous conspiracy theories.  The plane was hijacked and sitting in Pakistan or Afghanistan to be used against the U.S. or Israel for a nuclear attack by a terrorist mastermind, was a popular one that I briefly considered.  Another viewpoint indicated one or both of the pilots on a Jihadist mission.  Perhaps a bomb on board or the plane broke apart in flight, even though weather was not a factor.  The flight deviated from its scheduled route and after much analysis of various sources of data, experts concluded that the flight met its fatal track into the South Indian Ocean, just west of Australia.  We followed daily, questioning the resources and evidence until the public tired of the endless search and mass media frenzy.  Australia?  No wreckage even until this day at the end of 2014?  Will we ever know what happened?  It goes into the history books as being the largest and most expensive search in aviation history.

Four months later Malaysia flight 17 was shot down on July 17th over the Ukraine.  The television and web again buzzed with its own opinions and interpretations about the downed plane, and what was wrong with Malaysia Air for all its misfortune.  Russia and Ukraine pointed fingers at each other, in the mean time families mourned the tragic deaths of their loved ones, many from Amsterdam where the plane originated. It was most likely pro-Russian separatists using a Buk Surface-to-air missile, but nobody is willing to take responsibility for this needless destruction.  Casualties of an unnecessary war, 15 crew members and 283 innocent passengers murdered, travelling on another Boeing 777 with ties to Kuala Lumpur, its intended destination . Was Putin involved?  Bad Putin.

December 27th, 2014, the end of an already fatal year in aviation, Air Asia Flight 8501 disappeared.  Departing from Indonesia travelling to Singapore, the plane carrying 162 people vanished from the radar indicating turbulent weather along their path.  Two days later, wreckage and bodies were found just six miles southeast of the last known position, going in the opposite direction from the plane’s path. Is this another mystery flight catastrophe?  The black box is yet to be discovered, but given the fact that the crew asked for higher altitude and deviation for weather, severe thunderstorms probably played an important role.

The Sewol ferry sunk on April 16 off the coast of South Korea taking 304 lives, mostly young high school students on a field trip.  Abiding the captain’s command they remained in their positions to “stay put,” despite water entering the ship after the vessel capsized.  Meanwhile the captain and crew abandoned ship.  The inexperienced co-captain at the helm made a sharp turn and that combined with improper and overloading caused the ferry to list and sink port side.  Although with a prompt full force emergency response most lives could have been saved, they were not.  The Korean government was slow to respond and the crew unhelpful in such a dire situation.  Private companies and foreign governments came to the rescue before the Korean Coast Guard showed up at the scene.

On the same day the Air Asia flight disappeared,  an Italian ferry called the Norman Atlantic, carrying close to 500 people caught on fire. Almost all the passengers survived, one by one, being rescued by helicopter three at a time. Ten died in the disaster, but it could have been much more of a tragedy.

Am I still going to travel? Absolutely.  Staying at home, driving, or really doing anything exciting can be risky.  Life is worth the adventure and I look forward to plenty of it in 2015!

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