The Malaysian, Chinese and Australian governments on Tuesday ended their search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, after almost three years of a fruitless hunt. The families of the passengers on board were informed of the decision via email, officials said.

“Today the last search vessel has left the underwater search area. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has not been located in the 120,000 square-kilometer underwater search area in the southern Indian Ocean,” a joint statement issued by the three governments said.

The statement said the best technologies and expert advice from the best in the field had been used during the search. “The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness,” the statement said.

Chandrika Sharma, from Chennai, was among the passengers on board. “This decision appears premeditated and a betrayal of the commitment to the families and the public that the governments are committed to the search,” her husband K S Narendran told The Guardian.

On March 8, 2014, the aircraft was reported missing with 239 people on board en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. Teams from different countries had been looking for the Boeing 777 in a 1.2 lakh sqkm area of the Indian Ocean. The search is considered to be the most expensive in aviation history – estimated to have cost about $150-million (Rs 1,020 crore approximately). The hunt for the aircraft was also riddled with controversy, with many experts saying the wrong area was being searched.

Debris from the aircraft had been found on the French island of Reunion, in Mozambique, South Africa and Rodrigues Island and Mauritius among other sites.