A FORMER Sunderland University student is among those missing following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the Echo can reveal.
Huan Peen Chan, 46, lived on Wearside for four years when studying engineering and computing at the city university.
Friends today spoke of their shock after learning the popular church-goer was onboard the plane, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 when it lost contact with air traffic controllers.
Twenty-six nations have been involved in a major search for the missing plane, which Malaysia says was intentionally diverted.
During his time in the city, Huan Peen, known as Jesse, attended Sunderland Free Church in Stockton Road where he met John Cropley, a pastor there at the time. John, 66, said: “When we heard that Jesse was onboard, we felt a combination of disbelief and shock but knew his faith would remain strong.”
A talented musician, Jesse would play the organ and piano at the Sunderland church where he made a lot of new friends, particularly among younger people in the congregation. At the end of his degree, following his return to his Malaysian home, some of those he met in the city would regularly visit him.
Jesse met and married wife Janet in Kuala Lumpur and the couple went on to have two children, Xanthus and Lukas. John said: “At present we still want to cry with sadness at the thought of what Janet and the children are going through, her pain must be intense – the unknown is much more frightening as we are all left to the mercy of our imagination.
“Jesse is a very gentle and humble person, with an infectious smile and the ability to paint pictures with his music. He became, and remains, a very close friend to my wife and I and many others in Sunderland.”
Speaking after the plane went missing, Jesse’s cousin told Malaysian media: “We leave it to God and will not stop praying.”
Jesse, an engineer at Malaysian business Freescale Semiconductor, was among 26 of the company’s employees who were onboard the flight.
A spokesperson for the University of Sunderland said: “We are deeply concerned to hear reports that one of our graduates, Huan Peen Chan, who studied at the University of Sunderland between 1992 and 1995, may be one of the passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
Although we are not able to confirm these reports at this time, we wish to pass on our thoughts to the family at this difficult time.”