Over 800 relatives commemorate 2nd anniversary of MH17 disaster
On Sunday the Netherlands commemorated the second anniversary of the disaster with Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Over 800 friends and family members of victims gathered in Vijfhuizen, near Schiphol airport, to remember and honor their loved ones.
On July 17th, 2014 flight MH17 was gunned down over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed, 193 of whom were Dutch. This is the first time a commemoration was held so close to Schiphol airport, where survivors said goodbye to their loved ones for the last time. The ceremony was also held near the park where the permanent MH17 memorial will be erected - the survivors chose a design by Ronald Westerhuis.
"It's nice to be one in a place where we can always come back to", a spokesperson for Stichting Vliegramp MH17, the foundation created to assist MH17 victims' relatives, said to Dutch newspaper AD. "It is the place where our loved ones departed. That also makes the process difficult."
Prime Minister Mark Rutte attended the commemoration ceremony, at the relatives' invitation. He did not give a speech, only showed support. The program was compiled and filled with speeches and performances by the relatives themselves.
"Today is two years since MH17 was gunned down. 298 people lost their lives", Rutte said in a statement on Facebook. "Thousands of people lost their boyfriend, girlfriend, loved one, family member or colleague. Out of nowhere. In a conflict in which they had no share. A sunny summer day became a very dark page in our history. 17 July 2014 is forever etched in our memory. Today too we stand next to the survivors. We share their grief. MH17 took their loved ones away, but the memories of 298 people remain."
Two years after the disaster, the survivors are still facing much uncertainty and are frustrated that the investigation into the disaster is dragging so long. Last year the Dutch Safety Board concluded that flight MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile. But the criminal investigation for the perpetrators is still ongoing. The first results are only expected after this summer. There are also two Dutch victims who still have not been identified - Alex Ploeg and Gary Slok, according to AD.
A small ray of sunshine for the survivors is that most of them now reached an agreement with Malaysia Airlines on compensation, lawyer Evert Wytema said to RTL Nieuws on Sunday. Wytema forms part of the core team of lawyers assisting relatives in this matter. "Most survivors agreed on the outlines of a deal, the details are being worked out at the moment", Wytema said, adding that the agreement should be formally closed in the coming weeks. "A number of our clients are relieved that they can be done with this phase", the lawyer said. A small group of survivors are still in negotiations.