THE HAGUE (AFP) – Dazed relatives of Dutch victims killed in a Malaysia Airlines plane crash struggled Friday to come to grips with the horrific loss of family and friends as they demanded a thorough investigation.
The country woke up in shock and flags were flying half-mast as family and friends digested the loss of at least 173 Dutch passengers in the crash in Ukraine, which killed 298.
“I expect there to be a thorough investigation by the authorities into what has happened,” Sander Essers, who lost several relatives in the crash, told AFP in The Hague.
Essers lost his brother Peter, 66, Peter’s wife Jolette Nuesink, 60, and their two children, Emma, 20, and Valentijn, 17, in the crash.
Their story is like those of many other Dutch citizens on the plane in the country’s second-worst air disaster.
The Essers family were on holiday travelling to Borneo to explore the untamed jungle for three weeks with a group of friends when they boarded the ill-fated flight MH17.
“I spoke to my brother 20 minutes before he boarded the flight,” an emotional Essers said, adding: “But I can’t tell you what he told me,” as tears welled up in his eyes.
Essers described his brother, a pensioner who formerly worked in the Dutch telecommunications industry, as a “man who still had big plans”.
“His yacht is right here in the harbour. He was planning to still see the world,” said Essers, referring to the nearby port of Scheveningen.
Peter Essers’ wife, Jolette, was a clinical psychologist who ran her own practice and ironically worked with victims traumatised by war.
Essers described the couple’s daughter Emma, a first-year medical student at the northern Groningen University, as a “lively and adventurous person”.
Their son Valentijn, still in high school, loved sport and excelled in tennis and football.
– Crash ‘unimaginable’ –
Also on board was prominent former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange, who together with as many as 100 other passengers were on their way to Melbourne for the 20th International Aids Conference, media reports said.
“It’s unimaginable,” Lange’s friend Jaap Goudsmit told AFP.
“My wife saw him yesterday (Friday) morning, before he actually flew,” Goudsmit said.
“He was a father of five and a very compassionate family man,” he added.
Many others were also stunned by the news their family and friends were on the Malaysian airliner which went down just four months after a flight from the same carrier disappeared over the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board.
“This can’t be true!” exclaimed Alicia de Boer earlier in a Facebook comment as it emerged that her friend Cor Pan, a young Dutchman, had been on the flight.
In a chilling entry just before he boarded the flight, Pan posted an image of the doomed plane with the comment: “If it should disappear, this is what it looks like.”
Pan, who was going on a beach holiday to Malaysia, posted the photo as a joking reference to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing on March 8 and whose fate remains a mystery.
– Second largest air disaster –
The crash resulted in the second biggest loss of Dutch lives in an airplane disaster, after a horrific 1977 crash of two Boeing 747 jumbo jets on the Canary Island of Tenerife that killed 238 Dutch nationals.
In recent times an Airbus A330 crashed in the Libyan capital Tripoli in 2010 killing 103 including 70 Dutch citizens.
The sole survivor of that disaster was a nine-year-old Dutch boy.