More than 100 top-level AIDS researchers have been confirmed as fatalities among the 298 passengers who died following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air-missile allegedly fired by pro-Russian separatists.
It is believed that delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference (IAS) will be informed today that 108 of their colleagues and family members died on MH17.
Joep Lange, a famous Dutch AIDS researcher and Glenn Raymond Thomas, a spokesman based in Geneva for the World Health Organisation (WHO), were confirmed passengers on the doomed flight.
The IAS issued a response, saying it “expresses its sincere sadness at receiving news that a number of colleagues and friends en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that has crashed over Ukraine earlier today.”
It went on to say, that it is stands with “international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy.”
Chris Beyrer, president of IAS, told media today in Melbourne, “The IAS is hearing unconfirmed reports that some of our friends and colleagues were aboard the flight and if that’s the case, this is truly a sad case.”
When Beyrer was asked to confirm the death of Lange, he said if the reports were true, the AIDS community and the world has “lost a giant,” in the fight against AIDS.
There are also unconfirmed reports emerging, that around 100 passengers on the flight were heading to the conference in Melbourne.
Colleagues of the conference-goers took to Twitter to express their shock.
— Michel Sidibé (@MichelSidibe) July 17, 2014
According to the AIDS 2014 website, among some of the key note speakers for the event where former United Stated President Bill Clinton and Sir Bob Geldorf.
Julie Bishop, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, told news media in a press conference, “I understand the flight was linked to Australia,” and “I also understand a number of people traveling to Melbourne for the 2014 AIDS conference were on board.”
The Malaysian flight was heading to Kula Lumpur via Amsterdam, where it was believed to be connecting to other flights heading into Melbourne, which the AIDS researchers would of been on.
On it’s way over the eastern part of Ukranian airspace it was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists who may have mistaken the airline for a military aircraft.
In an audio transcript sent out by the Ukranian government, two militants with the names of “Greek” and “Major”, were discussing the incident as it unfolded.
Video of the transcript can be seen below:
Pro-Russian separatists still deny they shot down the plane, while the Ukranian government denies it’s involvement as well.
Allegations of Russia’s involvement have also been thrown around, due to the fact that the surface-to-air-missile was not at the hands of Ukranian forces, and could of only been supplied by Russia.