Malaysia Airlines MH17 victims' bodies arrive in Kuala Lumpur

Across the country, people observed a moment of silence just after the plane carrying the victims' remains touched down.

By Gabrielle Levy
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-400. (CC/Jakkrit Prasertwit)
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-400. (CC/Jakkrit Prasertwit)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The first Malaysian victims' bodies arrived in Kuala Lumpur Friday, more than a month after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine.

Family and friends met the remains of 20 victims -- 17 in coffins and three, cremated, in urns -- arrived on home soil 37 days after the jet was brought down by a surface-to-air missile.


Across the country, people observed a moment of silence at 10:55 a.m., moments after the plane carrying the victims touched down. King Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and Prime Minister Najib Razak presided as the coffins and urns were carried to white hearses at the airport.

"No words can express the sense of loss in seeing the bodies return, my prayers are with the victims and families of #MH17," Razak said in a tweet.

Of the 43 Malaysian victims on board MH17, 30 have been identified. The ten who were not returned Friday are still undergoing complicated processing in the Netherlands.

Following painstaking identification, which involves multiple matching tests, DNA profiling and post mortem examination the remains each victim's repatriation had to be prepared, including a death certificate, medical certificate, disaster report, approval permit for delivery of body, and letter of agreement from the Dutch public prosecution officer for the body to be buried or cremated.


Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Liow Tiong Lai said three more victims may be brought home as soon as Sunday. One of the victims' remains had already been released for repatriation, he said, while two others were expected to be released by Dutch authorities Saturday.

"There is a documentation issue concerning the remains of the third victim and we hope it will be solved soon so that they all can be brought home on Sunday," Liow said.

Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was carrying 298 passengers and crew when it was shot down, killing all aboard.

The vast majority of passengers -- 193 -- were Dutch, with 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Belgians, four Germans, three Filipinos, one Canadian and one New Zealander aboard.

U.S. intelligence blames pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine for firing -- perhaps accidentally -- on the passenger jet. The separatists have denied responsibility, and Russia accused the Ukrainian government of downing the plane.

The incident was the second major disaster this year for the Malaysian airliner, which also suffered the mysterious loss of MH370, which disappeared on March 8 and remains missing.

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