Awful wait for family of kind, loving Kiwi victim

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 20/07/2014
MH17

LOVING COUPLE: Rob Ayley, 29, from Wellington, with his wife Sharlene on their wedding day. Rob died in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash over the Ukraine.

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The family of a British-born Kiwi who died aboard MH17 spent a desperate day hoping he had somehow missed the fatal flight.

Rob Ayley, 29, was flying from Amsterdam on the Malaysia Airlines flight when it was brought down by a missile over pro-Russia territory in the eastern Ukraine in the early hours of Friday morning.

The crash killed 298 people and left families all over the world in mourning.

The international tragedy reached the quiet Wellington suburb of Tawa yesterday, where his mother Wendie said his family did not expect to travel to the crash site.

"He didn't die on the ground among the wreckage, he died in the sky. And it's in the sky that we'll think of him."

He and his widow Sharlene had two boys, Seth, 4, and Taylor, 2, and the family home is on the Kapiti Coast. His parents, Jonn and Wendie, live in Tawa.

Wendie Ayley said Sharlene quickly matched the flight details to her husband's travel plans when she heard about the crash.

Malaysia Airlines were able to confirm he was booked on the flight, but were initially unable to say if he had taken his seat.

"We spent the day hoping he hadn't boarded that flight."

Eventually, however, the awful news came through.

Wendie described her son as generous and loving.

"He wasn't a man of money, but he'd give you the holes from his pockets."

In a statement, his family remembered a man they described as "passionate about life".

He overcame Asperger's syndrome - a form of autism - to become a dedicated family man.

"[Rob] found in his boys two little people he could love, understand and trust. When they cried they were sad, when they laughed they were happy and when they hugged it was because they loved him.

"He struggled to interpret body language and innuendo but he could understand his boys."

Sharlene and Rob were "soulmates".

"She changed his life and he changed hers. She held his heart and he held hers. Rob will live forever in his family."

After leaving school at 16, he had returned to education later in life and was studying chemical engineering.

He had been away for a month visiting rottweiler breeders in Europe, and on the last day of his trip he emailed his family to say how much he was looking forward to coming home.

"It's been a long, long journey," he wrote. "We've seen the world's greatest rottweilers, we have established contacts and made lifelong friends, but now I'm just ready to come home. I hope all is well, if we don't talk beforehand, I will see you on Saturday."

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- Sunday Star Times

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