Few answers for families of missing

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons / New York Times News Service

Published Mar 9, 2014 at 12:01AM

A Canadian couple returning from vacation in Vietnam. An American who worked in Asia for IBM. A group of Chinese calligraphers who had attended an exhibition in Malaysia.

All of them were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which remained unaccounted for Saturday many hours after it was supposed to have landed at dawn in Beijing with 239 people on board, most of them from China. Five passengers were under the age of 4.

By Saturday night, the families of the passengers had few answers about what happened and dwindling hope that they would see their loved ones again.

One passenger was Philip Wood, 50, an IBM employee who was living in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, where the flight originated. His family in Texas had little information about the flight beyond what had been reported in the media.

“We’re all sticking together,” his father, Aubrey Wood, said Saturday from his home in Keller, Texas. “What can you do? What can you say?”

Philip Wood, who previously lived in Beijing, had two sons in Texas — the younger one is a student at Texas A&M University. Wood had followed in his father’s footsteps when he joined IBM, from which his father retired at the end of his career.

The two other Americans listed on the flight manifest were Nicole Meng, 4, and Yan Zhang, 2. The State Department confirmed that three U.S. citizens were on board.

There were also people aboard from Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria, according to the manifest.

An Australian couple in their 50s, Catherine and Robert Lawton, were on the flight because they were “looking to see a bit of the world” after their three daughters had moved out, neighbors told The Sydney Morning Herald.

At the Kuala Lumpur airport, a grief-stricken relative of Chng Mei Ling screamed uncontrollably as airline employees escorted him out of the terminal.

“Be truthful about this!” said Koon Chim Wa, the relative, whose booming voice echoed through the cavernous terminal.

“They say they don’t know where the plane is,” Koon said, his hands and body shaking. “Is this a joke?”

His niece, Chng, a Malaysian engineer working at a company in Pennsylvania, was on her way to the United States, via Beijing, Koon said.