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From nun to AIDS expert, Ukraine plane crash kills hundreds

By Mike Corder

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 18 2014 12:27 p.m. MDT

From left, Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh, SEB, or Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken Chairman Marcus Wallenberg, Treasurer of Australia Joe Hockey, GE Global Growth and Operations CEO John Rice and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria hold a minute of silence for the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that went down in war-torn Ukraine, at the B20 Australia Summit in Sydney, Friday, July 18, 2014.

Nikki Short, Pool, Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — International passengers from all walks of life, from a prominent AIDS researcher and soccer fans to a nun and a florist, were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday in eastern Ukraine, sending shockwaves around the world from Malaysia to the Netherlands.

Relatives, friends and colleagues paid tribute Friday to victims even before the airline released their names as it scrambled to contact the next of kin of the victims.

For one Australian family, the Ukraine crash represented an almost unbelievable double tragedy.

Kaylene Mann's brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 when it vanished in March. On Friday, Mann found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed on Flight 17.

"It's just brought everyone, everything back," said Greg Burrows, Mann's brother. "It's just ... ripped our guts again."

Several passengers were traveling to Melbourne, Australia, for the 20th International AIDS conference, which was starting Sunday.

The Academic Medical Center hospital in Amsterdam said in a statement that two of its staff, including renowned AIDS researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, and his colleague Jacqueline van Tongeren were believed to have perished.

"Joep was a man who knew no barriers," the hospital said. "He was a great inspiration for everybody who wanted to do something about the AIDS tragedy in Africa and Asia."

A World Health Organization spokesman traveling to the conference was also killed.

Most of the victims — at least 173 — were Dutch. The flight set off for Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in the country's school summer vacation period and was heading for the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

In the close-knit fishing town of Volendam, near the Dutch capital, flowers were laid outside a florist's shop whose owner and her boyfriend also were believed to be among the victims.

A handwritten note taped to the storefront above a bunch of orange roses, read: "Dear Cor and Neeltje. This is unwanted, unbelievable and unfair. Rest in peace. We will never forget you."

Dutch activist Pim de Kuijer, once a political intern of former Dutch lawmaker Lousewies van der Laan, was also among the dead.

On Twitter, Van der Laan called him "a brilliant, inspiring and caring activist fighting for equality and helping AIDS victims around the world."

A Dutch senator, Willem Witteveen of the Labor Party, also died, the Dutch Senate announced.

In Kuala Lumpur, a distraught Akmar Mohamad Noor, 67, said her older sister was coming to visit the family for the first time in five years.

"She called me just before she boarded the plane and said, 'See you soon,'" Akmar said.

Students at Sydney Catholic school Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart gathered Friday for a special prayer meeting after it was confirmed that Sister Philomene Tiernan, a 77-year-old teacher, was killed.

"We're absolutely devastated. For me, she's been a great mentor and she's also a personal friend," school principal Hilary Johnston-Croke said, her voice breaking with emotion.

Another Australian school, Toorak College in Melbourne, was also affected. Teacher Frankie Davison and her husband Liam were on the stricken flight, the school announced.

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