Missing plane mystery takes toll on family

Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014
 Paul and Danica Weeks

Paul and Danica Weeks on their wedding day in Christchurch in 2007.

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It has been a week from hell for the families and friends of those on board the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, who included former Christchurch man Paul Weeks. ANNA PEARSON speaks to Weeks' wife, his sister and one of his best mates about the anguish of not knowing the plane's fate. 

Danica Weeks still flicks between past and present tense when talking about her husband. One of her husband's best friends doesn't know whether to send her flowers or not. The missing Kiwi man's sister sits up late into the night trying to figure it all out.

"We are just at a loss as to why they have not managed to find it yet," says Sara Weeks.

"It" is a Malaysia Airlines jet – Flight MH370, which vanished off the coast of Vietnam a week ago, an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. There were 239 people on board.

This time last week, Danica Weeks was at home in Perth. She did not know anything was amiss until about 2pm, when a journalist phoned and broke the news.

"You don't know?" asked the reporter, who got to her before officials did.

Danica, 37, had not seen the news that morning, as Paul had fiddled with the television before he took off. It was not working.

"I thought, 'When he Skypes me today, I will ask him how to set it up again'."

He never did.

In Christchurch, Weeks' older sister Sara Weeks, says not knowing where the plane is "seems incredible".

It is Sara's 40th birthday tomorrow, and she, her mother, brother, daughter and grandparents have been surviving as best they can.

"We all come together at some point during the day to touch base and check on each other," she says.

But the media attention, lack of sleep and uncertainty around the plane's disappearance are all taking their toll.

"It's really difficult. You are just thinking about this stuff all the time. You just feel exhausted. You wonder why there are so many conflicting reports."

Danica Weeks' 3 1/2-year-old son, Lincoln – "Dad's little shadow" – was this week asking after his father. Danica did not know what to do. There is no manual for this kind of thing.

She eventually told Lincoln that his father "got lost" on his way to Mongolia and that he had to keep him in his heart. The couple have another young son, 11-month-old Jack.

In Perth, Paul worked for MTU Detroit Diesel Australia, until he was head-hunted for his "dream job" with Transwest Mongolia.

The 38-year-old was travelling to Mongolia for his first shift in a fly-in-fly-out job when the plane vanished.

Christchurch man Jamie Sayers, 36, met Paul in a Kiwi/Aussie flat in Turnpike Lane, London, about a year before Paul met Danica at Oktoberfest in Munich.

"I heard all about it when they got back. Dan moved into the flat and the rest was history. It was a match made in heaven," he says.

The friends stayed in touch and re-connected when the Weeks moved to Christchurch in 2001.

"It's just horrific. I want answers. I want to know how it has happened," he says.

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"I don't want to send Danica flowers, because that's sort of ... giving up. It must be absolute hell for her. They were really going to make an amazing life for themselves. It just doesn't seem right."

If anything, Jamie wants his friend to be remembered as a caring guy who was "always right, no matter what" and "always had everyone's best interests at heart".

"He was a real motivator. He would ring you up and say: 'Tell me, when are you going to apply for that new job?' Paul was such a fun guy to be around. He was a very competitive sportsman. A really good father.

"He wasn't just a Kiwi who died on a missing Malaysia Airlines plane."

Jamie and his wife Mel's second child is due in just over a week.

If it's a boy, they are going to give their baby two middle names, one of them Paul.

- The Press

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