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updated: 7/26/2014 5:26 PM

MH17 victims' family: Airline lacking compassion

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  • Soldiers load coffins into cars under a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base Wednesday After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.

      Soldiers load coffins into cars under a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base Wednesday After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The family of two brothers killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 called the carrier rigid and bureaucratic Saturday, saying it has offered them no professional grief counselling in more than a week and refused to organize a flight home to Houston for the boys' grandmother.

Harun Calehr, the uncle of victims Miguel and Shaka Panduwinata, said the family's frustration has grown as they felt they had to haggle for help from the airline in the days after the Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine on July 17.

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"You know, one would have hoped that there would have been more compassion, more understanding, and not such a rigid, bureaucratic attitude towards everything that we need," Calehr said.

"Everything that we got, we had to fight for," Calehr said.

Along with other relatives of victims, the family was put up in a hotel at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and was tended to by Malaysia Airlines staff in the days after the disaster.

Miguel and Shaka Panduwinata were on their way from Amsterdam to Bali for a vacation with their grandmother when Flight 17 was shot down, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

The family complains that there has been no offer of any grief counselling by the airline, that it refused to pay for the boys' grandmother to fly home to Texas from Amsterdam and that it has not yet paid out an initial reimbursement of $5,000 it pledged to victims' next of kin.

Addressing the issue of the grandmother's flight, Malaysia Airlines said in a written response emailed to The Associated Press that only "immediate next-of-kin" are eligible for travel reimbursements. But it added, "this situation will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis."

The carrier added that distributing the $5,000 payment to next-of-kin "requires a thorough verification process."

"The documentations are being prepared as we speak," it said.

Malaysia Airlines did not specifically address the complaint about lack of counseling, but pledged to focus on the needs of family members.

Miguel and Shaka's next of kin are not the only ones who have not received the $5,000 payout that is meant to cover initial expenses incurred by grieving families.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died on their way to a vacation in Bali, said she has not received any money yet.

"I'm just waiting," she said. "I have the feeling it is not very organized."

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