DISASTER struck when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down in July 2014, by a Russian surface-to-air missile.
On Thursday, November 17, 2022, a Dutch court finally reached a verdict on who was responsible for the tragedy. But what actually happened to flight MH17 and who were the victims?
When was the MH17 plane crash and what happened?
Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on July 17, 2014, with the loss of 298 lives.
The Boeing 777-200ER left Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at 12.31pm local time and was due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10am Malaysian time.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane two hours and 49 minutes after take-off when it was about 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Smouldering debris and personal belongings were found scattered over a large area in territory controlled by pro-Russia rebels.
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A 15-month investigation by the Dutch Safety Board revealed the aircraft had crashed after being hit by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile.
Who were the 298 victims?
All 298 passengers and crew members passed away in the gruesome attack.
The dead included ten Britons, 193 Dutch, 38 Australians and 43 Malaysians. Eighty victims were children.
All the airline crew were Malaysian, with 68 per cent of those on board Dutch.
It is said that this is the largest number of victims of an airliner attack to date.
Although every life that was lost in the atrocity was just as important as the next, some of the more notable victims were Dutch senator Willem Witteveen and Joep Lange, former president of the international Aids Society.
One man, Piet Ploeg, lost his nephew, brother and sister-in-law in the disaster.
He said, his nephew’s body “came back in 80 pieces”.
Who was found guilty for shooting down flight MH17?’
On November 17, 2022, three men were found guilty of the murder of all 298 people onboard flight MH17.
All three have been sentenced to life in prison.
The three are Russian nationals Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and a Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko.
However, none of the men appeared in court, as they had not been arrested and were being tried in their absence.
The men remain fugitives and are believed to be residing in Russia.
They were ordered to pay “more than €16m” in compensation to the victims.
The ruling came as a relief to victims’ family members, many of whom were in court when the verdict was announced.
What’s happened to Malaysia Airlines since the tragedy?
The MH17 crash came four months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished over the Indian Ocean.
In September 2014, the airline reported a decline in passenger numbers.
Channel News Asia claimed the airline has “struggled” since the twin disasters.
Chief executive officer Peter Bellew, who assumed his role in July 2016, said competition domestically and globally was “intense and is likely to intensify in the second half of the year”.
Bellew quit in 2017.
The airline was badly affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic which put a halt to international travel.
In 2022 the loss-making company said they were back to pre-Covid levels with 2023 bookings.
Chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail said: “We are very clear that we are a premium airline, our fares are slightly higher because they come with products and services such as flexibility in rescheduling and extra baggage.
“Malaysia Airlines is very lean and agile. We are really ready for the future, hence, we have decided to embark on the partnerships with Sarawak, Penang, Langkawi and many more.”
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