Flight MH17 families seek answers

Five years go, when flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, Piet Ploeg lost members of his family. He hopes the investigation will bring responsible to justice.

On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam, bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As the Boeing 777 flew over eastern Ukraine, it crashed, killing all 298 people on board, including 80 children. Ploeg says "this day changed everything." 

Piet lost his older brother Alex, his sister-in-law and his nephew when flight MH17 was shot down. His brother, a passionate biologist, had wanted to take his wife and son on a trip to the tropics. While their remains have been found, those of Ploeg's brother still has not.

Ploeg says nobody and no luggage has so far been retrieved. Even so, he is hopeful because "several hundred fragments which have not yet been identified will be analyzed using high-end technology — but the results will only be available by June or July next year."

His brother's daughters did not join their dad on the flight to Malaysia. Now, Ploeg looks after them. The younger of the two wants to become a biologist, just like her late father. Ploeg says the death of his brother Alex, his wife and their son "dealt a severe blow" to their parents, who died in 2019. After the death of his brother, Ploeg — like many other relatives and family members of those killed in the MH17 crash — needed psychological counseling. He also quit his job as a public administrator near Utrecht.

Today, Ploeg is a director of Vliegramp MH17, a foundation representing the vast majority of those who lost loved ones on that fateful day in July 2014. He works on a pro bono basis, helping prepare the March trial, assisting others who lost family members and friends in the tragedy.

Ploeg told DW he is often asked about his view of Russia and Ukraine. "They all think I hate Russians, but I don't," he explains.

He never used to follow developments in Eastern Europe, but that all changed after July 2014. Now, he is eager to get his head around the Ukrainian conflict and wants to know, above all, who carries responsibility for the attack on flight MH17.

"We want to learn about the structures behind the people who shot down this plane, and how they did it," he says.