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MH17: more Australians dead than September 11

Tragic history has been written for Australia today. The Ukraine plane crash is the second-worst terrorist attack in our history, and the third-worst plane crash, in terms of casualties.

The Ukraine plane crash is the second-worst terrorist attack ever to strike Australians in terms of casualties, surpassed only by the Bali bombings.

The Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down by a missile over Ukraine overnight, killing 298 people. Pro-Russian rebels are believed to be responsible. The Australian government has confirmed 27 Australians died, and said that number may rise.

Terrorism refers to the “unofficial use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”, so it would appear this was a terrorist attack — and one that has killed more Australians than September 11.

Not counting today’s crash, terrorism has killed more than 120 Australians since 2000. Here are the attacks which have killed the most Australians, in order of casualties.

Bali bombing (2002): 88 Australians died out of a total of 202 casualties when bombs exploded in the vicinity of two bars. The attacks were the work of Islamist organisation Jemaah Islamiah.

Ukraine plane crash (2014): 27 Australians are confirmed dead and that number may rise.

September 11 (2001): the terrorist attacks in the US killed 2900 people, including 10 Australians.

MH370 (2014): it is not known what caused Malaysia Airlines MH370 to vanish in March. The plane has never been found. Some speculate terrorism may have been involved, but that may not be the case. Six Australians were among the 239 people who died.

Bali bombings (2005): four Australians died when a series of bombs exploded in Bali in cafes and restaurants. Three of the dead were from Newcastle, and the fourth was from WA.

Jakarta bombings (2009): terrorists detonated bombs at western-owned hotels (the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton), killing three Australians and four others.

Mumbai terror attacks (2008): two Australians were among the 164 deaths when terrorists attacked several locations in the Indian city of Mumbai, including two luxury hotels.

The Ukraine disaster is the worst plane crash to have hit Australians since 1960. It is the third-worst plane crash ever, in terms of Australian civilians killed. Here are the worst civilian plane crashes, in order of casualties.

Trans-Australian Flight 538 (1960): all 29 people on board were killed when this plane crashed in Queensland. The flight crashed into the sea after fog forced it to circle Mackay Airport until conditions improved. Passengers included nine boys from a boarding school in Rockhampton heading home. Exact cause of crash unknown, but there were suggestions that faulty instruments could be to blame.

Australian National Airways DC-4 (1950): the plane crashed 18 minutes into an eight-hour flight between Perth and Adelaide, killing 28 people. Cause of crash still unknown.

Malaysia Airlines MH17 (2014):  shot down over Ukraine during a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur; 27 victims were Australian and that number may rise.

MacRobertson Miller Airlines Flight 1750 (1968): fell from the sky 52km short of its destination in Port Hedland, Western Australia. An investigation found that metal fatigue had caused the right wing to fracture in half and break off. All 26 people on board were killed on impact or in the fire that followed.

Australian National Airways DC-3 (1946): crashed into the water near Seven Mile Beach (near Hobart) shortly after departing for Melbourne. All 25 people on board were killed on impact and washed up on the shore over the next few days. An investigation into the cause of the crash was inconclusive.

Lockheed Lodestar (1949): crashed to earth seconds after take-off from Bilinga Airstrip near Coolangatta, Queensland. The plane caught fire shortly after impact, killing 21 people. An investigation into the crash found that the plane’s load had not been distributed evenly, causing it to become tail-heavy.

Other major crashes to affect Australians include in May 2005 when a Fairfield aircraft crashed into a heavily timbered ridge near Lockhart River, Queensland. Fifteen people died. The Queensland Coroner’s Inquest two years later found that pilot error was the main cause of the accident.

Last October a Lao Airlines passenger plane plunged into the Mekong River in Southern Laos killing all 49 people on board, six of them Australians, including a Sydney family of four. The crash was put down to extreme weather conditions.

The worst disaster in Australian airspace remains the Bakers Creek crash of June 14, 1943. A B-17 Flying Fortress bomber taking American soldiers back to fight in Papua New Guinea ploughed into mangroves near Mackay in Queensland. The crash left only one survivor, killing 40 American soldiers and airmen. The precise cause of the crash remains a mystery as the accident was a closely guarded official secret.

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  • 1
    Craig Snyder
    Posted Friday, 18 July 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    MH17 is a tragedy and an avoidable loss of innocent life.

    What it does not appear to be is an act of terrorism. I don’t know where you got your definition of terrorism from but a more appropriate definition is the deliberate use of force against civilians or innocents.

    If the reports are that the ‘Russian’ forces that shot down MH17 did not know it was a civilian airliner then how can it be deliberate.

    It is also not the first airliner to be shot down by military forces. On 3 July 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 civilians. The Americans thought the plane was an Iranian fighter-jet attacking it. The Americans ended up paying $61.8 million in compensation to the families of the victims.

    Tragic accidents happen and most could have been avoided but not all acts of violence involving civilians is terrorism.

    Craig Snyder, Deakin University

  • 2
    Pitter Patter
    Posted Friday, 18 July 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    How do you call it a plane crash when it was shot out of the sky?

  • 3
    Liamj
    Posted Saturday, 19 July 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I agree Craig Snyder, disappointing parroting of official spin, which in this sad excuse for an independant nation is US = Ukrainian neofascist spin. Why don’t the journo’s call US-armed Israel on its ‘terrorism’ killing schoolboys on Palestinian beaches? ‘..mere stenographers to power’ indeed.

  • 4
    Rena Zurawel
    Posted Sunday, 20 July 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Pitter Patter
    How do you know what happened?
    The experts are just arriving at the scene.
    Some of them already say that the plane does not seem to have been hit by a missile.
    But the final findings have not been concluded, yet.

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