Jet tragedy hits family, friends
Massey University will be providing support for staff and students who had friends and family aboard the shot-down Flight MH17.
Engineering student Rob Ayley, 29, was among the 298 passengers and crew who died when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot out of the sky by a missile over Ukraine on Friday.
Horticulture lecturer Huub Kerckhoffs' aunt and uncle, Toos and Guust Moors, from the Netherlands, were also on the passenger jet, travelling to see their son, Kerckhoffs' cousin, in Kuala Lumpur.
Massey's Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey said support would be offered to Kerckhoffs and to Ayley's classmates today.
Ayley, from Otaki, had been studying in Palmerston North since 2012, initially doing a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematics and transferring to do the Bachelor of Engineering honours degree this year.
He had been away for a month visiting rottweiler breeders in Europe.
Before his flight home, Ayley emailed his wife, Sharlene, saying he was looking forward to seeing her and their two sons, Seth, 4, and Taylor, 2.
His family have said they are reeling at the death of the generous, loving, family man.
Kerckhoffs, who has lived in New Zealand for 10 years, said his family were also struggling with the reality that loved ones were killed in the disaster. The family were from the small town of Middenmeer in northern Holland where the couple's death had been strongly felt.
"There's been an outpouring of emotion and grief with people at home; I've seen photos and there's flowers in front of the house," Kerckhoffs said.
"We're all in shock . . . it's heartbreaking and all we can do is wait for more information.
"It's hard to believe that even in beautiful places like New Zealand, when we're all the way over the other side of the world and away from war zones, that we are still affected by things like this.
"It's pretty unreal, but it is a messed-up world we live in."