Behind jet’s passenger list is rich human tapestry of life

By Rod McGuirk and Stephen Wright
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BANGKOK (AP) – Numbered 1 to 227, the passenger manifest for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is an outwardly unremarkable document.

But behind the columns of capitalized names, nationalities, and ages are 227 unique stories, part of a rich human tapestry that assembles every time a flight departs.

Two-thirds of the passengers on the popular business and tourist route were Chinese, 38 were from Malaysia, and the rest were from a smattering of other countries, including America, Australia, India, France, Indonesia, Ukraine, and more.

The flight had a crew of 12, all from Malaysia, a melting pot nation of ethnic Malays, Chinese, and Indians.

Malaysia’s prime minister announced March 24 that the missing Malaysian Airlines flight — whose fate was a mystery that consumed the world — had crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean.

Ju Kun, a stunt man whose credits include the acclaimed martial arts epic “The Grandmaster” and other films was among the passengers on the missing jet.

Ju Kun also worked on “The Forbidden Kingdom,” and he was scheduled to work on the series pilot for “Marco Polo,” a joint Weinstein Co. and Netflix production, at a studio in Malaysia before he boarded the flight to return home to Beijing.

A joint statement from the production partners said, “We are deeply saddened by the news about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Ju Kun, who was on board, was an integral part of our production team and a tremendous talent. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

The last update on Ju’s verified Sina Weibo account was on Feb. 24, when he posted a photo of himself from Pulai, Malaysia, saying, “New hairstyle. New mood.” Hundreds of comments have been made on that post, many hoping he would make a safe return.

Some traveled alone, some in groups. There were young sweethearts and wrinkled older couples. Some had business in mind, others thought of art. Seventy-four years separates the youngest, 2-year-old Moheng Wang, and the oldest, 76-year-old Rusheng Liu.

“I can only pray for a miracle,” Daniel Liau said in the early days of the search. Liau was the organizer of a calligraphic and painting exhibition in Malaysia attended by acclaimed Chinese calligrapher Meng Gaosheng, who boarded the flight with 18 other artists plus six family members and four staff.

“I feel very sad. Even though I knew them for a short time, they have become my friends,” Liau said.

Also traveling as a group were eight Chinese and 12 Malaysian employees of Austin, Texas, semiconductor company Freescale, which had assembled “around-the-clock support” for their families.

Among the family groups on board were teenage sweethearts Hadrien Wattrelos, 17, and Zhao Yan, 18, students at a French school in Beijing who were returning from the Malaysian leg of a two-week holiday, along with Hadrien’s mother and younger sister.

In December, Zhao changed her Facebook profile photo to one of her and Hadrien.

He had commented, “Je t’aime,” followed by a heart, and she had “liked” his comment.

Some boarded the plane with more serious purposes in mind.

Colleagues of Chandrika Sharma said the 50-year-old director of the Chennai chapter of an organization that works with fishermen was on her way from the southern Indian city to Mongolia for a Food and Agriculture Organization conference.

For 24-year-old Firman Chandra Siregar from Medan, Indonesia, the flight was a new chapter. In Beijing, he was to start a three-year contract with Schlumberger, an oilfield services company.

When the plane went missing, dozens of relatives and neighbors had gathered at Siregar’s family’s home, some tearful, praying, or watching news of the search and rescue operation. Like Sharma’s colleagues, they were forced to let hope ebb away.

Just by chance, Liu Hongwei was not on Flight MH370. The Beijing-based head of an investment company and friend of the calligrapher Meng said that he was invited to the exhibition and cultural exchange in Malaysia as a sponsor, but that business commitments kept him from going.

“That could have been me on that plane,” he said. (end)

McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia. Researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai, Associated Press video journalist Isolda Morillo in Beijing, and AP writers Gillian Wong in Beijing, Katy Daigle in New Delhi, Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

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