Friday 28 October 2016

MH17 victims remembered


On their son Bryce's birthday this year, Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand and her husband Rob went to a Dutch air base and watched seven coffins being unloaded from a military cargo plane and wondered if they contained parts of the remains of Bryce or his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers.

For many families of the 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down on July 17 last year over eastern Ukraine, uncertainty and agonizing waiting is still woven into the fabric of life.

"Your world stops with a bang," Silene said at her home in Rotterdam, where flowers and mementos to Bryce and Daisy still dominate the living room. The couple's bedroom is still the same disorderly mess it was the day they left for a vacation to Bali. "Everything around you continues. You try to participate, but it's just hard."

As if waiting for remains of loved ones were not bad enough, families also still have not received conclusive answers to many questions about the crash: Who brought down the plane? Will the perpetrators ever face justice? Why was the Boeing 777 heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur even flying over a war zone?

A preliminary report seems to point to a missile strike. Ukraine blames Russian-backed separatist rebels, Moscow blames Ukraine. Countries which lost citizens in the disaster are trying to establish a UN tribunal to prosecute any suspects eventually identified.

James Rizk, a real estate agent from the Australian city of Melbourne, is confident that the killers of his parents Albert and Maree Rizk will face justice.

At least James Rizk (22) did not have to wait too long for his parents' bodies to return home. They were the first of the 38 Australian permanent residents and citizens killed on Flight 17 to be repatriated, six weeks after MH17 was shot down.

Others have had a hard period of uncertainty. Evert van Zijtveld buried only partial remains of his son Robert-Jan (18) and daughter Frederique (19) in December. But since the funeral took place more fragments of the teens have been identified.

"We don't know what to do. It's very difficult to take the decision to open the grave to add pieces of bone," Van Zijtveld said.

On Friday, families will gather again, as they did in the shocked days immediately after the disaster, and hold commemorations.


James Rizk is going to the Australian capital, Canberra, where a memorial plaque will be unveiled in the House of Representatives garden.

Families will also gather in the Netherlands on Friday. In Rotterdam, Silene and Rob take comfort from friends and family as the anniversary approaches, but the pain of their loss, if anything, is just getting worse.

"We're a year further, but actually we've made no progress," Rob said. "For us, every day is July 17."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News