An estimated 100 delegates en route to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, reportedly died aboard downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, according to a statement released Friday by Daniel C. Montoya, deputy executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council.
Among those who died was Dutch researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), which organizes the prominent international conference every two years., Montoya wrote in the statement, speaking on behalf of executive director Paul Kawata, who was attending the conference.
“On behalf of our Board, staff, and the National Minority AIDS Council's (NMAC) entire extended family both local and abroad, we are absolutely devastated by reports that among the nearly 300 souls so tragically lost on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, were more than 100 researchers, advocates, health workers and people living with HIV bound for the International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2014, in Melbourne, Australia,” he said.
USA Today reports that all 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were killed when the airliner crashed Thursday in eastern Ukraine at Russia's border.
Details are still being sorted about what caused the crash, but U.S. officials say a surface-to-air missile struck the Boeing 777, which was flying over Ukraine's war-torn Donetsk region, the site of fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, the report says.
U.S. and Ukrainian leaders, among others, formally denounced the attack, expressing sorrow for its victims. President Barack Obama called it a "global tragedy," while Vice President Joe Biden said the crash was "not an accident, USA Today reports. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the attack an "international crime," according to the news site.
World leaders demanded Friday that pro-Russian rebels, who control the crash site, allow immediate and unbridled access independent investigators so they can determine what happened to the plane, the report says.