Putting names, faces to victims on downed jet
The Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The human cost of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 hit home around the world Friday, upending scores of families and communities, from a Dutch fishing village to an Australian soccer club and a Dubai cake store.
Relatives and colleagues paid emotional tribute to the dead. Students gathered to pray for lost friends, and Tour de France cyclists paused for a moment’s silence in memory of the 298 people killed in Ukraine.
The victims came from 13 countries and all walks of life. They included an acclaimed AIDS researcher from Amsterdam, a nun and teacher from Sydney, Australia, a Dutch senator and a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman.
Because the plane took off from Amsterdam, most were Dutch headed for Kuala Lumpur. But others were from elsewhere in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. One was a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen.
They left behind relatives searching for answers and clinging to memories.
“It’s a black day,” said Ron Peter Pabellon, a Filipino cake maker in Dubai who fears he lost an aunt, uncle and two cousins, one of them his best friend. “I want to see (them) with my own eyes because I don’t want to accept. I don’t want to believe.”
The crash heaped tragedy upon tragedy for one Australian family that also had relatives aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished in March.
Kaylene Mann’s brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on Flight MH370, which is believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean but has never been found. On Friday, Mann learned that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed on Flight MH17.
“It’s just brought everyone, everything back,” said Greg Burrows, Mann’s brother. “It’s just ... ripped our guts again.”
Several passengers were traveling to Melbourne, Australia, for a major international AIDS conference, which starts Sunday. Thousands of scientists and activists are expected to attend to discuss the latest developments in HIV and AIDS research.
The United Nations organization UNAIDS said the crash claimed “some of the finest academics, health-care workers and activists” working on the disease.
The Academic Medical Center hospital in Amsterdam said two employees, including renowned AIDS researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, and his colleague Jacqueline van Tongeren were believed to have died.
“Joep was a man who knew no barriers,” the hospital said. “He was a great inspiration for everybody who wanted to do something about the AIDS tragedy in Africa and Asia.”
The Amsterdam advocacy group Bridging the Gaps said on its website that its program manager, Martine de Schutter, was among the victims.
The International AIDS Society issued a statement Saturday confirming that Lucie van Mens was also on board. Van Mens worked for the Chicago-based Female Health Company, which makes female condoms.
Quinn Lucas Schansman, 19, who had duel Dutch-U.S. citizenship, was the only American identified as a crash victim. He was born in New York, where his father worked at the Dutch Embassy, and lived as a child in Fort Lee, N.J., before returning to the Netherlands when he was 5. His grandfather, Ronald Schansman, told NJ.com that his grandson was “a big boy, very lively, and we’ll all miss him.”
Schansman had been studying in Amsterdam when he decided to fly to Bali, Indonesia, where his family was on a three-week vacation. “He was headed over there to meet them,” said Katinka Wallace, a relative.
Karlijn Keijzer, 25, a Dutch doctoral student in chemistry at Indiana University and an avid rower, was mourned by rowing communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Amsterdam student rowing club Skoll said on its website that Keijzer died with another rower from the club, Laurens van der Graaff, on their way to a vacation together.
In the fishing village of Volendam, near the Dutch capital, flowers were laid outside a florist’s shop. The shop’s owner and her boyfriend were among the victims.
A handwritten note taped to the storefront above a bunch of orange roses read: “Dear Cor and Neeltje. This is unwanted, unbelievable and unfair. Rest in peace. We will never forget you.”
Dutch AIDS activist Pim de Kuijer, once a political intern of former Dutch lawmaker Lousewies van der Laan, was also killed.
On Twitter, Van der Laan called him “a brilliant, inspiring and caring activist fighting for equality and helping AIDS victims around the world.”
The dead included a Dutch senator, Willem Witteveen of the Labor Party, the Senate announced.
Students at the Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart in Sydney gathered Friday for a special prayer meeting to remember Sister Philomene Tiernan, 77, a teacher who was killed. “For me, she’s been a great mentor, and she’s also a personal friend,” said Principal Hilary Johnston-Croke, her voice breaking.
A high school in the central Dutch town of Woerden that lost three pupils from three families threw open its doors for friends, relatives and teachers to console one another, Principal Alice Timmermans said.
Another Australian school, Toorak College in Melbourne, was also affected. Teacher Frankie Davison and her husband, Liam, were on the stricken flight.
Australian sports clubs also were hit. Victoria state real-estate agent Albert Rizk and his wife, Maree Rizk, were killed, leaving a hole in a local football club where they volunteered and their son, James, played.
Phil Lithgow said Albert Rizk was a member of the club’s committee. Maree was a volunteer in the canteen. “They were very lovely people. ... very generous with their time in the community, very community-minded,” Sunbury Football Club president Phil Lithgow said.
English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United said two of its fans who were flying to watch the team’s tour of New Zealand were among the dead. The club’s website named the supporters as John Alder and Liam Sweeney.
In Geneva, WHO said spokesman Glenn Thomas, 49, a Briton, also was on the way to the AIDS conference. Thomas “will be remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health,” said Gregory Hartl, another spokesman for the U.N. health agency.
Dutch cyclists competing in the Tour de France wore black armbands in a show of solidarity with relatives.
Material from the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times is included in this report.