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Dutch Mourn Vacation-Bound Children Who Died as MH17 Shot Down

Updated on
Memorial in the Netherlands
A woman kneels by flowers at a memorial for the victims of Malaysian Airline System flight MH17 at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, on July 20, 2014. Photographer: Valerie Kuypers/AFP via Getty Images

Dutch schools had just closed for summer and Jinte Wals was excited about her vacation.

“On a plane to Malaysia in an hour!” Wals tweeted before boarding Malaysian Air flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine on July 17. Jinte -- who was in the third year of secondary school in the Dutch village of Deurne -- was among 80 children who died in the disaster. Her brother Brett, her sisters Amel and Solenn, and her parents also perished.

The Netherlands had 193 citizens on the flight that U.S. and European leaders say was probably brought down by Russian-backed rebels. A total of 298 people were on board.

As confusion continued to surround the whereabouts of the passengers’ bodies and European leaders called for access to the site and wreckage, schools re-opened across the Netherlands so children could share their grief over lost classmates.

Five-year-old Arjuna Paulissen was flying with his parents and three-year-old sister Sri to Indonesia for the holidays, according to his school and Jan Pommer, the mayor in Sint-Michielsgestel, where he lived and went to school.

‘Sweet Pupil’

“Our sweet pupil Arjuna Paulissen, together with his father, mother and younger sister have died,” the local Roald Dahl elementary school said in an online condolence register. “Our school is devastated.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on July 19 he had called Russian President Vladimir Putin and urged him to use his influence over the rebels to allow the bodies to be recovered. Even as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that he and his French and German counterparts had agreed that Europe should be ready to apply additional sanctions on Russia, Rutte hasn’t called for such steps.

“I told him: You have to do everything you can. I wouldn’t know who else to call,” Rutte told reporters on July 19. The premier, who says his priority is retrieving the bodies, was due to speak to Putin again last night.

For some, that wasn’t enough as the premier faced criticism over his handling of the disaster and grief gave way to anger.

“Rutte has been too weak, he must demand more from Putin and his people,” said Louisa Helgadotter, 42, who works at a travel agency at Schiphol Airport and whose husband knew a man on the flight. “God knows how this is going to end.”

Special Forces

“Enough is enough,” De Telegraaf said in red capital letters on its digital Sunday edition’s front page. The most read Dutch newspaper called for NATO troops to secure the crash site and said special forces should hunt down those responsible and send them to Netherlands to stand trial. Rutte ruled out any role for NATO securing the area yesterday.

Malaysian Airline System Bhd published a list of the names, nationalities and gender of those aboard Flight 17. Among the travelers, 140 were women. Forty-three Malaysians were killed and 27 Australians, the second- and third-worst hit nations after the Dutch, according to a statement from the airline.

People on the list also include former International AIDS Society President Joep Lange, a well-known disease researcher, who was on the flight with his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren. Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima are due to meet relatives of the victims today.

Also identified were World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Thomas; lobbyist Pim de Kuijer from the Netherlands’s AIDS Fund; and Dutch Labor Party senator Willem Witteveen and his wife, Lidwien, and daughter, Marit.

Leon Wels and Remco Trugg were also named. Friends from the local OJC Rosmalen soccer club, the two men were taking their wives and three children, one age 7 and two age 10, on vacation together to Asia. Wels’ son Sem was remembered by his gymnastics club in the Dutch city of Den Bosch.

“With bewilderment and disbelief we heard yesterday that Sem Wels and his parents were on the disaster plane,” the Flik Flak team said on Facebook. “We will miss this little man with his bright smile.”

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