LAST_UPDATESat, 23 Jun 2018 10am

MH17: One Mistake That Killed 298

Passengers’ belongings are pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 before a visit by Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 19, 2014. —ReutersPassengers’ belongings are pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 before a visit by Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 19, 2014. —ReutersKUALA LUMPUR— Late Thursday, the world was jolted awake by the unexpected crash of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17, a commercial jet carrying 298 civilians that rebels locked in a geopolitical conflict in eastern Ukraine had mistakenly shot down.

This story is still unverified but foreign officials believe this to be the case, based on intercepted conversations among pro-Russia separatists who control the Donetsk region where MH17 went down, and information from numerous other intelligence sources.

In the 24 hours that passed after the plane’s downing, news reports streamed in with updates on the disaster, along with gory pictures and videos of the bodies that were just moments ago seated comfortably inside the Boeing 777 jetliner.

From the usually-quiet Ukrainian village where MH17 crashed, chilling witness accounts of the gruesome carnage emerged.

In one story on Reuters, a villager said there was an explosion and moments later, a corpse tore through the roof of her house. The corpse, a naked woman, was still lying in her house yesterday, next to her bed, as investigators had instructed that no evidence be moved.

According to The Washington Post, the blackened remains that was MH17 became the playground of “souvenir seekers, children and amateur investigators”. It was these people and their cameras, apart from the pro-Russian separatists, who were reportedly among the first to swarm the scene after the wide-body jet went down.

In the field of rubble, they sifted through kilometres of metal and other remnants of the plane — chairs, seat belts, food carts. Strewn among this was the terrifying sight of human bodies, some broken and mangled, others partly charred.

“There is a spine,” a man in camouflage said in a footage on the New York Times. He shifts the black dirt around with his feet before pointing at the burnt-out body part.

“A spine here. These are hands.”

In the same NYT report, the daily explains the gory scene from ground zero.

 “A woman in a black sweater lay on her back, blood streaming from her face, her left arm raised as if signaling someone.

“Another victim, naked except for a black bra, lay on the field, her gray hair mixing with the green grass, one leg broken and her body torn.”

According to MAS’s latest figures last night, the bulk of MH17’s passengers hailed from the Netherlands at 189. The others came from at least nine other nations, including Malaysia (44), Australia (27), Indonesia (12), United Kingdom (9), Belgium (4), Germany (4), Philippines (3), Canada (1) and New Zealand (1).

But other than making up the numbers on the aircraft’s manifest, each passenger had their own story to tell. Who were they? How did they end up inside the plane that would later come to be the subject of an international crisis?

Each had boarded the ill-fated flight from Amsterdam for their own reason — some were heading home for family reunions or to spend Hari Raya with their loved ones; others were just passing through Kuala Lumpur en route to their respective home countries.

But none of the 298 made it, however.

Instead, their bodies now lie strewn about the vast corn and sunflower fields of a remote village in conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine, hundreds of miles away from where they call home.

Here are some of their stories.

The cabin crew

 According to his father, MAS steward Sanjid Singh Sandhu, 41, was supposed to visit his parents to enjoy his favourite petai curry cooked by his mother yesterday afternoon.

Jijar Singh said his son, nicknamed Bobby, was a jovial and filial person and often returned home for visits.

“He was also coming back to perform prayers at St Anne’s Church nearby for the upcoming annual St Anne’s Feast,” the distraught father said.

“He was a normal healthy person, if he was sick I’d accept it or if it’s an old person, it is normal but this...this is too sudden,” the 71-year-old added.

It was in the wee hours of yesterday morning when Jijar Singh was told of MH17’s crash and his son’s likely death.

MAS stewardess Nur Shazana Mohamed Salleh, 31, had always wanted to be a flight attendant and was living out her dreams after snagging a job at the national airline nine years ago.

Her uncle described her as a “very responsible and sweet girl”, while her family had expected to celebrate Hari Raya with her and were also hoping that the jet-setter would settle down soon.

The loss of Captain Wan Amran Wan Hussin, who had spent 25 years of his life flying planes, angered his 50-year-old cousin Umi, with the New Straits Times reporting her saying: “I’m speechless, if it was true that my cousin was killed by terrorists”.

According to Umi, Wan Amran’s eldest child Yunus, 10, has continuously cried and questioned why his father’s plane was shot down since hearing of the incident.

The football fans

John Alder, in his 60s, and Liam Sweeney, 28 — which Newcastle United said were “two of the club’s most loyal supporters” — were travelling to New Zealand to cheer the team on in two friendly football matches, The Telegraph reported.

In expressing its “great sadness” at hearing of their tragic deaths, Newcastle United said John was a “a lifelong supporter and a familiar sight in the stands for almost half-a-century, having barely missed a single game in that time”, while it remembered Liam as a volunteer who helped steward football fans in buses to away games.

Tied to the famous

The Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s step-grandmother Puan Sri Siti Amirah, 83, was hoping to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr in Indonesia with her only daughter from her first marriage.

“She was a very, very nice lady. A kind-hearted, beautiful woman. She was a homemaker who looked after my grandfather very well. We called her ‘ibu’ (mother),” family spokesman Datin Dr Faridah Abdullah told The Star yesterday.

Dora Shahila Kassim, the chief stewardess aboard the ill-fated plane, is also the cousin of the popular Malay rock singer Hattan also known as Datuk Mohd Shukri Shahabudin.

Hattan found it too much to bear when facing reporters, saying yesterday: “I just don’t know what to think, I don’t know what to say.”

The young

According to UK’s The Telegraph, Ben Pocock was travelling to Australia for a work placement. The 20-year-old had just completed the second year of his International Business BSc degree.

The daily also reported that Richard Mayne, another student from Leicester, was also heading to Australia. But for the maths and finance student at the University of Leeds, the journey was meant to be a holiday — a “dream 12-month trip”. Mayne was reportedly an avid charity worker, having previously climbed to the Everest base camp to raise money.


World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman Glen Thomas was also among those killed on MH17, AFP reported. He was en route to Melbourne for the global AIDS conference, along with dozens of others before the plane went down.

“It is with deep sadness that WHO lost one of our colleagues in the Malaysia crash,” communications official Gregory Hartl was quoted as saying in Geneva yesterday.

Another known figure among the world AIDS community was also heading to the same conference. According to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange was also aboard the jetliner.

Families who suffered twice

Maree and Albert Rizk, who were aboard the MH17 flight, have family ties to an Australian family that had lost married couple Rodney and Mary Burrows in the mysterious disappearance of MAS flight MH370 on March 8.

But Rodney’s brother Greg Burrows was quoted telling newswire AFP that they bore “no ill feelings” towards MAS, saying: “Nobody could predict this one and nothing’s been proven on the first one, so there’s nothing there”.

The investigation of the tragic incident is still going on, with the Ukraine government saying it had recovered as many as 181 dead bodies out of the 298 passengers on board the MH17 flight.



--The Malay Mail