The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been called off.
The hunt for debris from the missing plane, which vanished while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014, has lasted almost three years.
The Joint Agency Coordination Centre in Australia, which helped lead the hunt for the Boeing 777, announced the search had officially been suspended after crews finished their fruitless sweep of the 120,000-square kilometre (46,000-square mile) search zone, the Associated Press reported.
A statement which was a joint communique between the transport ministers of Malaysia, Australia and China, said: “Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting-edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft.
“Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended. The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness.”
In July 2015, part of a wing from the plane was found on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
Other pieces of debris also believed to be from the aircraf have also been found in Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Tanzania.
There have been countless theories about what led MH370 to crash but without anything more substantial to examine and the underwater search for the plane proving in vain, investigators have yet to find out precisely what happened.
Families of the 239 people who died on board the plane have criticised the decision to call off the search.
Voice370, a support group said it was “dismayed” by the decision:
Grace Nathan, a Malaysian whose mother was on board, said “The whole series of events since the plane disappeared has been nothing but frustrating.
“It continues to be frustrating and we just hope they will continue to search. ... They’ve already searched 120,000 square kilometres. What is another 25,000?”
In the absence of solid leads, investigators relied largely on an analysis of transmissions between the plane and a satellite to narrow down where in the world the jet ended up - a technique never previously used to find an aircraft.
Based on the transmissions, they narrowed down the possible crash zone to a vast arc of ocean slicing across the southern hemisphere. Even then, the search zone was enormous and located in one of the most remote patches of water on earth - 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) off Australia’s west coast. Much of the seabed had never even been mapped.
Although officials investigating the plane’s disappearance have recommended search crews head north to a new area identified in a recent analysis as a possible crash site, the Australian government has already ruled that idea out.
It is possible that a private donor could offer to bankroll a new search, or that Malaysia will offer fresh funds but no such offer has yet been made.