Are we going to die, Granddad? It hardly bears imagining what torture must have gone through the mind of Nick Morris in the brief instant between life and death after a missile tore through Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.
If he was conscious when it struck, he must have known that there was no hope for himself or the three grandchildren he was shepherding home to Perth in Australia after a family holiday in Amsterdam.
Mo, 12, Evie, 10, and Otis Maslin, 8, were among the 80 children killed in the attack. They were being brought home by their grandfather for the start of the school term in Australia while their parents remained in Amsterdam for another few days.
The heartache stretches from Ireland to Australia. Among those whose lives were taken were:
- A Dublin mother of two;
- A family of four;
- Children on holidays;
- College students;
- Pioneering Aids doctors;
- Newcastle United fans;
- A nun of Irish descent.
There was no reprieve for the 298 souls on board and no solace, either, for the families and loved ones of victims such as Edel Mahady, an Irish woman and mother of two who emigrated to Australia 20 years ago.
A first cousin of Labour TD Willie Penrose, Mrs Mahady had been visiting her ill mother, Monica, in Dublin and was making her way back to Perth in western Australia.
Mrs Mahady, whose maiden name is Byrne, had worked as a school administrator in the Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School in Kelmscott, near Perth. She had been living there for a number of years with her husband, Dermot, and two children, Conor and Ciara, both in their 20s.
Her sister Gráinne Hill, from Walkinstown in Dublin, was being comforted by friends and neighbours last night while her other sister, Maeve McPhail, who lives in Scotland, was said to have flown to Dublin to be with her family.
Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan last night offered his condolences to Mrs Mahady’s family while, in a Tweet, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald wrote: “My thoughts are with the MH17 families. I am saddened to hear of an Irish woman on board, Edel Mahady from the Lucan/Palmerstown area.”
An entire Dutch family of four were also killed. Charles Smallenburg, his wife Therese, their daughter and son Carlijn and Werther were going on a holiday of a lifetime to east Asia.
A Catholic nun from Sydney was another victim. Sister Philomena Tiernan, was a “much loved” teacher at the Catholic school Kincoppal -Rose Bay in Sydney and was returning from a retreat in France.
Also killed was Glenn Thomas, 49, a media officer at the World Health Organisation in Geneva.
His twin sister, Tracey Withers, wrote on her Facebook page: “Twins forever my dear younger bro seeing I was born before you 2 mins xx love you x.”
Cor Pan, a Dutch holidaymaker travelling to Malaysia with his girlfriend Neeltje Tol, took a photograph of the plane and posted it on Facebook with the message: “If the plane disappears, this is what it looks like.”
An Australian family has been hit by both Malaysia Airlines tragedies, having now lost four members in flight MH370’s disappearance and flight MH17’s shooting-down over Ukraine. Kaylene Mann’s brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on board Flight 370 when it vanished in March. Her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed on MH17.
Those on board included 100 of the “best and brightest” scientists and researchers who were travelling to an Aids conference.
Meanwhile, Mr Flanagan said the Irish Government supports calls for a full, independent international investigation to establish the cause of the tragedy and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
He added: “The scale of this tragedy is overwhelming, particularly for the people of the Netherlands who lost more than 180 citizens. To their families, and to all those affected around the globe, we offer our heartfelt sympathies.”
Speaking at the White House, US President Barack Obama said: “The eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out.”
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