They were people on that plane. Not just numbers or nationalities. And these are their stories.

Mo, Evie and Otis Mastin

They were people.

Not just numbers, not just nationalities.

They were people on that plane.

And knowing some of their personal stories – who they were and who they left behind –  is a vital step towards bringing them home. Because it’s much harder to care about numbers than it is about people, people who died in criminal circumstances and who are being treated so reprehensibly and dishonourably in death.

On that plane was the cabin crew who were known as the “flying mothers” by their Malaysia Airlines colleagues due to the route being popular with working parents. It’s believed the crew would have been collecting meal trays from passengers after dinner when the aircraft was hit by the surface-to-air missile. The 11 female crew on the flight – many of whom were married to fellow cabin crew members – had 14 children aged between them. Those 14 children, aged between two years old and 26 years old, are now without their mothers.

Crew member Angeline Premila

There was 68-year-old grandfather Nick Norris, travelling home from Europe with his three grandchildren 12-year-old Mo, 10-year-old Evie, and 8-year-old Otis Maslin, leaving behind their parents Anthony and Rin who were staying on in Amsterdam for an extended holiday.

Thirty-seven-year old Dutch language teacher Dafne Nieveen was returning to Perth after attending an eduction conference in the Netherlands. Twenty-seven-year-old Melbourne woman Elaine Teoh and her boyfriend, Emiel Mahler were on their way to a wedding in Malaysia.

Sister Philomene Tiernan, from Sydney, had taken a European sabbatical from her job at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School. Members of the school community have described Tiernan as someone who “brought love in all her interactions with everybody”.

There were 298 stories from 11 countries on flight MH17.

According to the official list of passenger from Malaysia Airlines, 193 people were from the Netherlands and 43 were from Malaysia (including the 15 crew). There were also 27 Australians (as well as a number of permanent residents), 12 Indonesians, 10 from the UK, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines, and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

They were people.

Gold Coast woman Helena Sidelik.

Gold Coast woman Helena Sidelik was one of nine Queenslanders on the flight and was returning from a holiday. Forty-five-year-old Shaliza Dewal and her husband Hans Van Den Hende were travelling with their three children – 15-year-old Piers, 12 -year-old Marnix and 8-year-old Marguax.  The family were supposed to spend some time in Kuala Lumpur before heading back to their home in the western suburbs of Melbourne, but never made it back.

Many of the passengers on board the plane were HIV and AIDS researchers on route to a conference in Victoria. Among them was President of International AIDS Society and father-of-five Joep Lange, HIV researchers Dr Lucie van Mens, Martine de Schutter, Pim de Kuijer and Jacqueline van Tongeren, as well as the World Health Organisation’s Glenn Thomas.

They were people.

People with families, people who belonged to communities, people who will be sorely missed by those close to them.

Retired Wollongong teachers Michael and Carol Clancy were on a three-week European holiday to celebrate Mr Clancy’s retirement. According to reports from the Illawarra Mercury, they had saved up for first class tickets on the flight due to Mr Clancy’s poor health.

Liam Davison and his wife Frankie.

Liam Davison was an award winning author. His wife Frankie was a respected teacher who had worked at Mt Eliza’s Toorak College for more than 28 years. The couple have left behind two adult children – Milly and Sam, both aged in their 20s.

25-year-old Jack O’Brien was on his way home from a 7-week adventure of a lifetime. Fifty-year-old Lilliane Derden has been confirmed by The Canberra Times as the sole Australian from the ACT on board Flight MH17. She was a mother of two, a grandmother and was described by a friend as “the best person in the world”.

Mary and Gerry Menke had travelled to France to celebrate Gerry’s 70th birthday. The couple had four children and five grandchildren and were dedicated contributors to their Mallacuta community.

They were people.

They were more than just seat numbers; more than just “bodies raining down”.

Pathologist Roger Guard and his wife Jill were on their way home to Toowoomba. Albert and Marie Rizk had two children – James and Vanessa – and were supposed to be on board an earlier flight with friends. Albert was a committee member of the Sunbury Lions Football Club and Marie would often volunteer at the club canteen.

29-year-old Victor Oreshkin.

Dutch-Israeli citizen Itamar Avnon was studying a Bachelor of Business at a Melbourne university. Twenty-nine-year-old Victor Oreshkin was on his way home to NSW after a five-week trip with his brother.

Marco Grippeling was an IT security specialist who has left behind a wife and a family. Gary Lee and Mona Lee were returning home from a six-week cruise and leave behind two adult daughters.

They were all people.

People on the way home from holidays. People starting their adventures. People just doing their jobs.

Wayne Baker and his wife Theresa had been married thirty years. After their six-week trip around Europe, they were planning to hit the road and travel around Australia.

Emma Bell was a school teacher in her early 20s, who worked in the remote aboriginal community of Maningrida. She was returning to the Norther Territory after spending her school holidays overseas, ready to start the new school term.

Fifty-five-year-old Arjen Ryder was a keen bike rider. His wife, 54-year-old Yvonne, was a teacher in the WA town of Albany.

Emma Bell was a school teacher in her early 20s.

Howard and Susan Horder’s three sons said “they lived a happy life and provided much love and care for all those around them.” The family of Edel Mahady described her as a woman with a “fierce love of her family was evident in her support of her siblings through constant communication and regular visits to care for her elderly mother”.

They were all people. And right now we don’t know whether those people will ever make it home to their families for the dignified farewells they deserve.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today: “We want to retrieve the bodies, we want to investigate the site and we want to punish the guilty, that’s what we want to do. It’s absolutely imperative that we bring them home, in order to bring them home we have to get them out.”


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