In an almost incomprehensible twist of fate, an Australian woman who lost her brother in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 learned on Friday that her stepdaughter was on the plane shot down over Ukraine.
Kaylene Mann’s brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on board Flight 370 when it vanished in March. On Friday, Mann found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed along with 297 others on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which U.S. intelligence authorities believe was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
“It’s just brought everyone, everything back,” said Greg Burrows, Mann’s brother. “It’s just ... ripped our guts again.”
Burrows said his family was struggling to understand how they could be struck by such horrible luck on two separate occasions with the same airline.
“She just lost a brother and now a stepdaughter, so...” he said of his sister, his voice trailing off.
Rizk and her husband Albert, of Melbourne, were returning home from a four-week holiday in Europe, said Phil Lithgow, president of the Sunbury Football Club, with which the family was heavily involved. Albert, a real estate agent, was a member of the club’s committee, Maree was a volunteer in the canteen and their son, James, plays on the club’s team.
International passengers from all walks of life, from a prominent AIDS researcher to a nun to soccer fans to a florist, were aboard the Boeing 777, which was carrying 298 people. Most of the victims – at least 173 – were Dutch.
The flight set off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in the country’s school summer vacation period and was heading for the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
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.
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.
Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the Geneva-based U.N. health agency, identiefied the man as Glenn Thomas, a 49-year-old Brit.
Thomas, who regularly briefed journalists and responded to media requests for interviews and comment, had been with WHO for more than a decade. Hartl said Thomas “will be remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health.”
Hartl says no other U.N. employees were aboard the plane.
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 world.”
In Kuala Lumpur, a distraught Akmar Mohamad Noor, 67, said her older sister was coming to visit the family for the first time in five years.
“She called me just before she boarded the plane and said, ‘See you soon,”’ Akmar said.
Students at Sydney Catholic school Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart gathered Friday for a special prayer meeting after it was confirmed that Sister Philomene Tiernan, a 77-year-old teacher, was killed.
“We’re absolutely devastated. For me, she’s been a great mentor and she’s also a personal friend,” school principal Hilary Johnston-Croke said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Another Australian school, Toorak College in Melbourne, was also affected. Teacher Frankie Davison and her husband Liam were on the stricken flight, the school announced.
“Our hearts and sympathy goes out to their children Milly and Sam, and family,” the school wrote. “We are devastated by the news of this tragedy.”
Nick Norris, 68, from the Western Australia city of Perth, and his three grandchildren, Mo Maslin, 12, Evie Maslin, 10, and Otis Maslin, 8, were on Flight 17, said David Harries, general manager of the South of Perth Yacht Club – of which Norris was a member.
Harries issued a statement on behalf of Norris’ wife, Lindy, that said Nick was an active sailor.
“Nick and Lindy are well loved and respected members of the club who contributed selflessly as volunteers for yachting regattas and events,” the club said in a statement.
Nick’s grandchildren were also members of the club, along with their parents.
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 also among the dead. The club’s website named the supporters as John Alder and Liam Sweeney.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said “myself and all the players are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news.”
In Geneva, the World Health Organization said its spokesman Glenn Thomas, a 49-year-old Briton, was killed.
Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the U.N. health agency, said Thomas was traveling to Melbourne to attend the AIDS conference.
Hartl said Thomas “will be remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health.”
In Amsterdam, grieving relatives of the victims gathered in a hotel at Schiphol, kept away from waiting reporters.
Dutch cyclists competing in the Tour de France said they would wear black armbands in a show of solidarity with relatives, while a live radio report of the race was cancelled.