My personal story
Up till a few years ago I assumed that all 60 aboard died during an aircraft accident about 14 miles off the shore of Lebanon. The aircraft state company, Malev, stressed at the time that they were not in any way responsible for the accident and voiced their condolences to my mother. We never heard from them since. Later I learned that the investigation into the cause of this accident lasted a couple of days and resulted in the cause remaining unknown.
Then, nearly thirty years after the event, I read on airliners.net an artikle about a possible reason for the crash, which was partially acknowledged by the spokeswomen of the Malev in a Hungarian newspaper in 2003, namely that the plane was shot down. During a television broadcasting by the Finnish State Secretary of Foreign Affairs he stated that "the shooting down of the plane was an act of deliberate cruelty". These words were repeated in the Hungarian Parliament in 2004 when discussing possible efforts to locate the plane and repatriate the victims on board of the plane. The parliament accepted a budget law for a fund amounting to ca. 400.000 euro's for that purpose.
However, only in February 2007 I met a British/Hungarian relative through the internet. He had been investigating the crash for more than 10 years. And it was he who told me that, a couple of hours after the crash, the bodies of 37 victims, nearly 2/3 of the occupants of the plane, were retrieved from the sea.
Now that, no one told us at the time. During the week following that event in 1975, the Malev had been regularly in contact with my mother because my father had called her earlier that day from Budapest, telling that he was very concerned about the multiple last minute cancellations of the flight. He said he would try to get a return flight back to Amsterdam and that he would call her again the next day or so. Therefore, the Hungarian authorities searched for him and checked hotel records etc. There was also confusion about his nationality (they thought he was perhaps Finnish or Belgian or German) so that one day we would hear that he possibly died, the next day that he was possibly alive. This uncertainty was resolved when after a week when they finally found the right boarding pass of my father, irrefutable proof of his presence on that plane.
But now I know that at that time, he could have been amongst those recovered from the sea as 17 victims remained unidentified so that there was a more than 50% chance that my father was amongst them.
This because, after identification by the families and friends, most probably non-Lebanese nationals remained unrecognized. What would have been more simple than to take a photograph and have the families identify their relatives? Why never notify us of their burial place?
Until a couple of years ago, the Hungarian government (till recently owner of the Malev) denied any retrieval at all and is still ignoring the anonymously buried. They never attempted to find them, let alone repatriate them or inform the relatives. Even though the Hungarians were at that time part of the investigation team and even though now the Hungarian Parliament agreed to fund research attempts (albeit speaking only of the victims on board of the plane). The Hungarian government however decided in 2011 to distribute the monies of the fund amongst the Hungarian relatives under the condition that they waive any rights. Most of them accepted this allocation.
But what about all the other relatives? How difficult will it be now to search for those buried inland, let alone try to find the remains of the plane and its black boxes?
Up till now this proves to be an insurmountable and unreasonable request. For years on end, any question on this subject or for more information, made in person or through diplomatic channels, has been met with ear deafening silence.
After more than 30 years of silence all these relatives deserve a humane closing chapter of this event.