First batch of remains from MH17 arrive in Netherlands
THE NETHERLANDS – The first batch of bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 arrived on Wednesday at the Eindhoven Military Airport from Ukraine aboard two military planes.
When the planes' engines stopped roaring, hardly anything can be heard except for the clinking of poles where 17 flags of different countries wave at half mast, representing 17 nationalities who died in the crash, including three Filipinos.
At exactly 3:45 in the afternoon, the first plane landed carrying 24 bodies. Shortly after, another plane carrying 16 bodies touched down. The bodies were carried in wooden caskets. King Willem Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other top government officials waited at the tarmac.
Security was tight and the media was not allowed to get near the victims' friends and family members who were waiting at an area shielded with black barriers.
According to Lodewijk Hekking, spokesman for the Ministry of Security and Justice, an estimated 1,000 relatives and friends of MH17 victims waited at the tarmac.
In full military service, including the sound of the trumpets for funeral services, the caskets were slowly carried by armed forces personnel to the hearses waiting at the tarmac. Afterwards a convoy of officers in motorcycles led the hearses to the front of the royal family and government officials, then to the families to pay their respect and finally drove on to Van Oudheusdenkazerne, a military facility in the city of Hilversum.
The process of identification will start Thursday, July 24.
A minute of silence, observed in the whole country followed. Landings and take-offs at different airports were delayed for a short period and public transport operations stopped for a minute.
Outside Eindhoven Military Airport, hundreds of Dutch gathered to witness the transport of the bodies. Some were not able to control their tears while watching the hearses drive by.
Like in Schiphol Airport, flowers and messages were offered to the victims. Children brought their stuffed toys for those children who died at the crash.
Despite not knowing any off the victims personally, Dutch/Lithuanian Raza broke down after reading the letters. She was especially broken hearted for the children who perished in the crash.
"’Who is guilty? Who did this to our people? To everybody? And also to Ukraine and this war, this is not normal anymore. I don’t understand this, I cannot understand this,” she said.
On the same evening in Amstelveen, the municipality held a service to pay tribute to six of its residents who died in flight MH17.
Among them are Filipina Irene Gunawan, her Indonesian husband Budy and their two children Sherryl Shania and Darryl Dwight. It is not yet known whether their remains are included in the first batch of bodies that arrived in the Netherlands.