‘We need closure... we need them back’

Soldiers carry a coffin during a ceremony to mark the return from Ukraine of the first bodies of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, at Eindhoven military air base in the Netherlands.  Picture: Martin Meissner

A father who lost his son in the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash said that the families needed to see their loved ones and bury them for "closure".

Barry Sweeney, speaking in the Netherlands as he watched Ukrainian military planes flying in to Eindhoven with the bodies of the victims, told of his emotion on making the same journey to Amsterdam as his son Liam Sweeney had just six days earlier.

“We need closure. We need to see our children. All the families, the mams, the dads, brothers, sisters, we need them back here,” he said.

“I’ve come with Liam’s brother Mark as a spokesman for the Geordie nation if you can call it that. We need closure so they can be buried very, very soon.”

Liam, 28, was travelling along with fellow Newcastle United fan John Alder to see the football club on a pre-season tour of New Zealand.

Barry, a 52-year-old father of seven, said his son had a passion for football.

“Liam didn’t show a lot of emotion but I’ve never seen him as excited as this trip, going half way around the world really,” he said.

The two military transport planes carrying 40 coffins bearing victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 landed in Eindhoven, and pro-Russian rebels shot down two fighter jets in Ukraine’s restive east as fighting flared in the region.

Six days after the Boeing 777 was shot down over the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, the first bodies finally arrived in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest toll in the crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew.

A Dutch Hercules C-130 — that Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said was carrying 16 coffins — touched down first, closely followed by an Australian C-17 Globe-master plane carrying 24 coffins.

British investigators began work on a pair of black boxes to retrieve data on the flight’s last minutes, while Dutch officials said they have taken charge of the stalled investigation of the airline disaster and pleaded for unhindered access to the wreckage.

“If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it,” said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash.

“Waiting while the bodies were in the field and in the train was a nightmare.”

King Willem-Alexander clasped his wife’s hand as the couple grimly watched teams carry the coffins slowly from the planes to a fleet of waiting hearses.

Almost the only sound was of boots marching across the ground and flags flapping in the wind.

‘Crash’ error

The Associated Press, one of the world’s most respected news agencies, sparked momentary chaos and a Twitter frenzy when a badly worded tweet said the plane carrying the bodies of MH17 victims had also crashed.

The Associated Press tweeted: “BREAKING: Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash lands in Eindhoven.”

It was missing a crucial comma between “crash” and “lands”.

The grammatical error gained momentum with the Press Association tweeting: “The Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has reportedly crash landed in Eindhoven.”

The PA then re-issued its news alert, this time saying: “The Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has landed in Eindhoven.”

AP later said their mistake was “especially regrettable”.


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