WASHINGTON — A family of four headed to a reunion in the Philippines. A graduate student on summer break with her boyfriend. Two soccer fans following a beloved team to New Zealand.
The 298 passengers and crew aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday were from at least 10 different countries. Some were flying for business trips, others for adventure, to move abroad or to visit relatives. One man was traveling to his mother’s funeral in Jakarta, Indonesia.
More than 100 of those on board reportedly were researchers and activists headed to an international conference on HIV-AIDS.
At least one was a baby.
Few, if any, probably had any idea that the Boeing 777’s flight path would take it over a hotly contested area of Ukraine, not far from where Ukrainian military aircraft had been shot down in recent days. Even if they had known, the idea that the conflict raging more than 30,000 feet below them on the ground could threaten them in the air likely never would have crossed their minds.
The tragedy struck a particularly terrible blow to the world’s community of HIV-AIDS researchers and activists, who were gathering in Melbourne, Australia, for next week’s 20th International AIDS Conference. President Barack Obama said Friday that nearly 100 of the conference’s attendees were killed in Thursday’s crash. “These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence,” the president said.
Among them was Joep Lange, former president of the International AIDS Society and a world-renowned pioneer of antiretroviral therapy, a treatment that helped save countless lives. Dr. Lange had studied AIDS since the emergence of the epidemic in the early 1980s. He campaigned worldwide to make the therapy more easily available and affordable, especially in developing countries where the majority of AIDS infections now occur. His partner, Jacqueline van Tongeren, a former HIV-AIDS nurse, also died in the crash.
“The HIV community is a close-knit group of people. This definitely is going to reverberate throughout the community,” said Shawn Jain, spokesman for Whitman-Walker Health, a health center specializing in HIV care and research in Washington. “To lose people like Dr. Lange who were so heavily engaged in efforts to fight HIV is an incalculable loss,” Mr. Jain said.
Glenn Thomas, a World Health Organization spokesman, also was traveling to the AIDS conference when he died on Flight 17. Christy Feig, the WHO director of communications, said her team first learned of Mr. Thomas’ death on television.
Apart from Dr. Lange and Mr. Thomas, the exact number of victims who were on their way to the AIDS conference — and their names — had yet to be confirmed Friday. “We are bracing ourselves to hear of the deaths of others who worked in the AIDS response as their names are officially released,” Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the families of all the victims of this tragic crash. The deaths of so many committed people working against HIV will be a great loss for the AIDS response.”
The U.S. State Department confirmed at least one American fatality Friday: Quinn Lucas Schansman, a U.S.-Dutch dual citizen. He was flying to Malaysia to join family members who were already on vacation there, according to reports in the Dutch media. Mr. Schansman’s Facebook profile says he was studying in Amsterdam at the International Business School. After the crash, his girlfriend, Floor van Dranen, posted a photo on her profile page of the couple kissing. Condolences flooded the comments beneath the picture.
The Gunawan family was on its way to the Philippines for a vacation and to attend an annual family reunion. Hadiono Gunawan, an employee of Malaysia Airlines, is related to an ABC News employee, the network reported. He was traveling with his Filipino wife, Irene, and their two children, Daryl, 15, and Sherryl, 20.
Nick Norris, 68, a businessman from Perth, Australia, was accompanying his three grandchildren on the flight so they could make it home to start school on time after a family trip to the Netherlands. Australian media identified the children as Mo, 12, Evie, 10, and Otis, 8. The children’s parents were not on the flight. They had decided to stay behind in Amsterdam for a few more days, the website Perth Now reported.
Charles Tamtelahitu, 63, was en route to his mother’s funeral in Jakarta. His younger brother, Theo Lekatompessy, told the Jakarta Post that he’d bought Mr. Tamtelahitu a ticket for Flight 17 so he could be there for their mother’s burial, which was scheduled for Friday. She died Wednesday, Mr. Lekatompessy said. “I got him the ticket. He was to fly from Amsterdam to Jakarta via Kuala Lumpur. It has only led to more grief,” he told the Jakarta Post.
Karlijn Keijzer, a 25-year-old doctoral student in the chemistry department at Indiana University, had just prepared a computer simulation on a drug used to treat cancer and Alzheimer’s disease before catching the Malaysia Airlines flight for a short summer vacation with her boyfriend, Laurens van der Graaff. Described as a brilliant student by faculty and staff at Indiana University, Ms. Keijzer also was a formidable athlete. She rowed on the varsity-eight boat and helped the university’s women’s rowing team earn a 14-5 record during the 2011 season.
Mu-Hyun Baik, an associate professor of chemistry and informatics at Indiana University, said Keijzer “was a kind, happy young woman full of ideas about the future. She inspired us all with her optimism about how science will make Earth a better place.”indiana - washington - england - United States - North America - Asia - Eastern Europe - Europe - Barack Obama - Southeast Asia - Western Europe - Australia - Oceania - United Kingdom - Melbourne - Ukraine - New Zealand - Netherlands - Malaysia - Philippines - Indonesia - Amsterdam - Jakarta - Java - Kuala Lumpur - Leeds - Newcastle United FC