Cape Town - Two days after the explosion on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, in which former South African helicopter rescue pilot Cameron Dalziel and 297 others died, the airline has still not made contact with his bereft wife, Reine.
Dalziel’s sister Candice has provided Reine’s details to airline officials no fewer than three times.
Compounding the omission, the airline has refused to confirm to Dalziel’s parents, Meryll and Doug, that their son’s name was on the passenger manifest.
When Weekend Argus sister title the Sunday Tribune contacted the media hotline number on the Malaysian Airlines website, a spokesman said: “He is not the only person who died. It is taking time to verify details of the passengers. How do you know his family has called us with this information?”
On the airline’s website, a breakdown of the nationalities of the victims on flight MH17 lists: “United Kingdom – 10, including one dual UK/S Africa citizen.”
Dalziel travelled on a British passport, but was raised in Durban.
He had recently settled in Malaysia with his wife and two sons, Sheldon, 14, and Cruz, 4.
Dalziel was returning home from Amsterdam after completing a fixed-wing airplane training course when a land-to-air missile fired close to Ukraine’s Russian border, reportedly brought down the plane.
Candice and her remaining brother, Campbell, were yesterday comforting their parents at their Umhlanga Rocks home.
Candice said her sister-in-law was being supported by Dalziel’s colleagues from the Canadian Helicopter Corporation.
She said Malaysian Airlines had provided no answers.
“We are desperate for the truth. The only way we can explain the loss of Cameron to his 14-year-old son, Sheldon, who worshipped him, is by getting honest answers.”
Clayson Monyela, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman, said: “Because the victim was travelling on a British passport, our hands are tied. International diplomatic protocol dictates that Britain must lead when it comes to seeking information on behalf of the family.”
Candice heard the news while she was in Dubai on business, and immediately began making inquiries.
“I did not believe Cameron could have been on board because he was only scheduled to fly on Friday, but I phoned the airlines. No one could give me answers although I phoned numbers for Malaysian Airlines in both Kuala Lumpur and London. I begged them to tell me if his name was on the passenger manifest.
“‘We can’t give out that information,’ I was told. ‘But he has family. We have to know,’ I implored them,” she said.
But it was only when she called the emergency number for the British Consulate that she got any help.
“Yesterday I called Malaysian Airlines again, but they still would not confirm his death. This morning I got a call asking for my parents’ details. The official said it was for DNA comparison purposes. For the third time I asked if they had spoken to his wife. They recited a wrong number back to me.”
Candice said it was too early for the family to plan a memorial, but that Dalziel’s widow would be returning to Durban within days.
“Cameron was a very keen surfer, so there will obviously also be a paddle-out to celebrate his life,” she said.
Yesterday Malaysian Airlines said that “with immediate effect, all European flights operated by Malaysian Airlines will be taking alternative routes”.
The airline defended the flight path of MH17: “The usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”
Also late yesterday, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said: “Malaysian Airlines is in the process of notifying the next of kin of the passengers and crew. All possible care will be provided to the next of kin.
“If it transpires that the plane was shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice. Emergency operations centres have been established and, in the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
He said the president of Ukraine had “pledged there will be a full, thorough and independent investigation, and Malaysian officials will be invited to take part. He also confirmed that his government will negotiate with rebels… in order to establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site.”
It is the second time in under five months that Malaysian Airlines has come in for heavy criticism for handling an airline tragedy badly.
On March 8, MH 370, another passenger plane belonging to the airline, disappeared without trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The 239 people on board vanished with the plane. - Weekend Argus