Families recount the horror of MH17

September 07, 2021
Mh17 Russian
Wreckage from MH17. Photo: Joint Investigation Team

Families of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have given emotional testimony about the impact of the aircraft’s destruction and the failure of Russian authorities to address the tragedy.

International investigators have determined the 298 passengers and crew were killed when a Russian BUK missile hit the B777 after it crossed Ukrainian airspace while traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.

They traced the missile’s origin to a base in Russia, although Russia has denied any involvement in the disaster.

READ: Social media helps MH17 investigators identify Russian army unit

Four suspects — Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko — face murder charges for their alleged involvement in the attack.

None are appearing in court and only one, Pulatov, has a lawyer representing him to deny the charges.

Giving the first of an expected 90 victim impact statements, Ria Van der Steen spoke about nightmares and being unable to farewell her loved ones after they were killed while heading to Borneo for a holiday.

“I saw the wreckage, bodies, personal effects,” ABC News in the US reported her as saying. “I could not stop crying until I woke up screaming.”

Her father and stepmother were identified from small pieces of bone and she recalled how shocked she was when presented with the two small bags of bones.

“I knew it was them, but emotionally I did not want to accept it,” she said.

Sander Essers said his brother, Peter, had rung him prior to boarding the 777 and predicted his own death.

“In a gloomy voice he said to me, literally: “Sander I’m afraid that I’m not going to come back alive.’ Later he said: ‘We’re flying over a war zone.’ He was dead scared and asked me urgently whether or not he should board the plane.”

Essers said he reassured his brother and now often felt partly responsible for his death.

Thirty-eight Australians were on the plane and James Rizk told the court via video from Melbourne his parents, Albert and Maree, were murdered.

“The reality is we may never have a conclusion or complete closure over who killed Mum and Dad,” he said on Australia’s ABC.

“The frustrating part for me is the powers that are holding the conclusion of this trial back.

“Everyone can see the sheer arrogance of Russia, the misinformation from Russia.”