King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands attended a special memorial service on Monday for those who died in the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash. Leading the tributes, the royal couple were joined by the king's mother Princess Beatrix and the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Amsterdam gathering. Relatives of the victims turned out in full force for the sombre occasion, which was held almost four months after the plane went down.
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Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix arrive for the MH17 crash memorial
Out of the 298 passengers who died in the crash, the majority – 193 people – were Dutch nationals. Each individual victim was honoured, as their names were read out and their photos were projected onto a screen in the auditorium. A stage adorned with pink flowers and lit candles had been put up in the middle of the room. Willem-Alexander and Máxima, dressed in all black, looked visibly upset as they listened to relatives remember their lost ones.
Queen Máxima and King Willem-Alexander remembered the 298 victims
Anton Kotte, who lost his son, daughter-in-law and grandson on MH17, spoke of a shared pain that crossed all borders and nationalities. "We didn't know each other but we are partners in misfortune," he said during the service. Teenager Gita Wiegel, 13, who lost her mum on the flight, said: "Every day I'll be haunted by the fact that my loved one is gone. I wanted to do so many wonderful things with my mother."
A central stage with flowers and candles was erected in honour of the victims
The prime minister also took to the stage, adding that each victim would be remembered. "What if the plane had been late? What if I wake up and realise it was all just a dream?" he said. "But there is no what if? Only the harsh reality of 298 dead. They will not be forgotten."
Names of victims were read out during the ceremony
About a week after the plane was struck down in eastern Ukraine on 17 July, Willem-Alexander and Máxima travelled to the Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands to watch as a plane carrying the victims was returned home. Throughout the ceremony the royal couple held each other's hands tightly as the coffins were brought off the plane.