International passengers from all walks of life, from a prominent AIDS researcher and soccer fans to a nun and a florist, were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday in eastern Ukraine, sending shock waves around the world from Malaysia to the Netherlands.
Relatives, friends and colleagues paid tribute Friday to victims even before the airline released their names as it scrambled to contact the next of kin of the victims.
A Malaysia Airlines official said 189 of the passengers were Dutch. There were also 29 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine from the United Kingdom, four each from Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines, one each from Canada and New Zealand and four passengers whose nationalities have yet to be confirmed, said Huib Gorter, the airline’s regional vice president for Europe told reporters at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
For one Australian family, the Ukraine crash represented an almost unbelievable double tragedy. Kaylene Mann’s brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 when it vanished in March. On Friday, Mann found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed on Flight 17.
“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 the 20th International AIDS conference, which was starting Sunday.
The Academic Medical Center hospital in Amsterdam said in a statement that two of its staff, including renowned AIDS researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, and his colleague Jacqueline van Tongeren were believed to have perished.
“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.”
A World Health Organization spokesman traveling to the conference was also killed. Most of the victims were Dutch. The flight set off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport during the country’s school summer vacation period and was heading for the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
In the close-knit fishing town of Volendam, near the Dutch capital, flowers were laid outside a florist’s shop whose owner and her boyfriend also were believed to be 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 activist Pim de Kuijer, once a political intern of former Dutch lawmaker Lousewies van der Laan, was also among the dead. On Twitter, Van der Laan called him “a brilliant, inspiring and caring activist fighting for equality and helping AIDS victims around the continued…