Sunday 26 October 2014

Bulletin: The human stories behind tragic flight mh-17

Clare Cullen (@Clisare)

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

Candle light vigil: A Ukrainian man lights up candles for the victims of MH17

Two hundred and ninety eight passengers perished aboard Malaysia airlines flight MH17, which is believed to have been shot down from the air with missiles as it flew over the Ukraine.

Passengers were posting and sharing photos and updates right up to take-off and every post went viral following the news of the plane's fate, giving the world a previously unheard of level of insight into each of the people on board. Md Ali Md Salim instagrammed a 12-second video from the plane with the caption: "In the name of God feeling a little bit nervous."

Cor Pan, a Dutch passenger on flight MH17, posted a joke on his Facebook page alongside a photograph of the plane just before take-off, writing: "If it disappears, this is what it looks like."

Dutch teenager Gary Slok took an excited selfie with his mother moments before take-off on what was reported to be a "holiday for single mothers and their children". His football club paid tribute to the teenager and the "wonderful life… wrecked" by the tragedy. An Australian couple who were holidaying in Amsterdam lost their three children on the doomed flight. The children's grandfather, Nick Norris, was accompanying the kids back to Australia "in time for the new school term" when the plane was shot down. A close friend of the couple said they are "devastated" and "trying to come to terms with the loss" of Mo (12), Evie (10) and Otis (8).

Kaylene Mann from Queensland had already lost her brother and sister-in-law on missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370 and it emerged that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, and Rizk's husband had been aboard flight MH17. Her brother was quoted as saying the news "just ripped our guts again".

A 27-year-old activist working for Amnesty International's Africa program was on the plane along with her parents and brother. The four were heading on a family holiday. The organisation confirmed the death and posted a photograph of Tessa van der Sande on their Facebook page.

There were over 100 delegates and family members of the 20th International AIDS Conference on board the flight, including former president of the society Joe Lange, who leaves behind five daughters.

Meanwhile, a couple who were moved from flight MH17 due to a shortage of seats have spoken of the "sick" feeling they had upon hearing the news, and a Dutch cyclist escaped death for the second time after changing his flights for both MH370 and MH17 due to scheduling issues.

Human angle

Social media has made the events of MH17 even more visceral for the general public, allowing a real human insight into the victim's lives and personalities

Kind workers help war veteran

American superstore Lowe's went viral this week after a photograph emerged of the staff fixing a veteran's wheelchair.

Michael Sulsona, a Vietnam veteran, has reportedly been waiting for a new wheelchair for two years. While shopping at the store, his wheelchair "fell apart" and the staff jumped to his aide. Sulsona wrote a letter to the local paper about the incident. "They took the wheelchair apart and replaced the broken parts and told me: 'We're going to make this wheelchair like new.' I kept thanking them and all they could say was, 'It was our honour'."

Sulsona lost both legs in 1971 when he stepped on a land mine during the war.

Since the image went viral, a Veteran's Association spokesperson said a "new custom wheelchair was delivered to (Sulsona) today, and it, along with his back-up, will be serviced by the VA.

Youngest groom weds wife again

The youngest groom in the world (9) has renewed his vows with his 62-year-old wife in Ximhungwe in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The two first married in 2013, when Saneie claimed his "dead ancestors" requested his betrothal to Helen. His mother, Patience, was happy for her son to "honour the ancestors". "If we hadn't done what my son had asked, then something bad would have happened."

The second ceremony is tradition, and was held last week. After the wedding, Helen returned to her husband of 30 years and their five children, and Saneie will "go back to school and study hard". "I'm happy that I married Helen…when I'm older I will marry a lady my own age."

Helen's husband Alfred attended both ceremonies. "My kids and I are happy… we don't have a problem" he said.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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