A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday 17 July. Flight MH17 was carrying Dutch nationals, Australians, Malaysians (including 15 crew), Indonesians and Britons, among others. Passengers were also from Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada. The region where the plane came down has been at the centre of fighting between Ukraine’s military and separatist rebels supported in their fight for independence by Russia. Both sides have accused the other of shooting down the passenger plane. The BBC has reported that the separatists, who control the area of the crash site, are to allow investigators access to the site to ascertain the cause of the disaster.
As the investigation of the tragedy focuses on pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels and accident investigators arrived Saturday at the crash site in a rural field, a clearer picture is emerging of the people whose lives ended when a missile hit their Kuala Lumpur-bound jet at 30,000 feet. Passengers came from all walks of life and from 11 different countries–193 of them from the Netherlands and 43 from Malaysia. Three infants were also listed on the passenger manifest. “MH17 has become a geopolitical issue,” said Malaysia Airlines, calling for greater cooperation in the search-and-recovery effort. “Citizens of 11 nations – none of whom are involved in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine – cannot be laid to rest. Their lives were taken by violence; now violence stops them being accorded their final respect. This cannot continue.”
A statement on the Malaysia Airlines website on 21 July reads: "Malaysia Airlines' primary focus is to care for the family members affected by MH17. The airline will be supporting the families during these trying times and will be providing them hotel accommodation, meals, and transport assistance. At the same time, the airline has assigned caregivers (who are trained Malaysia Airlines’ staff) for each family member to provide emotional support and basic needs. To date, 79 caregivers and other support staff are in Amsterdam, whilst 43 are based in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines is very grateful to be working alongside KLM, who have been assisting it in supporting the family members from the outset. As goodwill, to ease the immediate families of the passengers with their economic needs, the airline is also offering a financial assistance of USD5,000 to the families of each passenger. Funds have already been made available for this purpose. Citibank has supported Malaysia Airlines with the logistical arrangements for the fund transfer. This financial assistance will not be offset against the final compensation nor affect the families’ legal rights to claim. Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines will be organising a multi-faith prayer session for both staff and the public at large. Further details will be advised at a later date."