Shock rippled through the Illawarra over the weekend as Carol and Michael Clancy’s family and friends, colleagues and students heard news of their tragic deaths.
The couple, both retired teachers from Kanahooka, were among 36 Australians on the Malaysian Airlines aircraft MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine on Friday with the loss of all 298 people on board.
The flight’s passenger manifest, released over the weekend, shows the Clancys - aged 64 and 57 - were seated in seats 2A and 2C in the first-class cabin.
They saved for the expensive seats to make sure the former Albion Park deputy principal - who had a inflammatory arthritis condition that made it difficult for him to walk - could comfortably make the trip home from their three-week European adventure.
‘‘It’s like everyone on this flight has some sort of sainthood at the moment, I know people say that all the time, but it's true.''
On Friday night, Mrs Clancy’s daughter Jane Malcolm, 37, told the Mercury of her ‘‘absolute shock’’ as she realised her mum had been involved in the devastating crash splashed all over the news.
Surrounded by family, including her brother Andrew, 35, Ms Malcolm said they were all struggling to come to grips with the tragedy.
‘‘My stepfather had just retired and they were kind of going on a big trip, a big overseas adventure,’’ she said.
‘‘It was the trip, you know.’’
Their three-week itinerary included Amsterdam, parts of Germany, France and the fjords of Norway.
‘‘They didn’t know if they’d get to go again, and they really wanted to go,’’ she said.
‘‘Michael had been a big traveller when he was younger - he actually volunteered as a teacher in the Maldives when he was young. He taught overseas.’’
Mr and Mrs Clancy, who both dedicated their lives to educating children, were among a long list of Australians - AIDS researchers, loving grandparents, innocent children - who died onboard the plane, thought to have been struck by a surface-to-air missile.
‘‘It’s like everyone on this flight has some sort of sainthood at the moment, I know people say that all the time, but it's true,’’ Ms Malcolm said.
‘‘He spent a year volunteer teaching abroad, my mother had retired earlier and was volunteering as a migrant English teacher.
‘‘Mum was the kind of person who was always worried about everybody else.
‘‘I’m here with my friend, and when her father died and left the house in a complete mess, my mum didn’t know this friend but I was telling her about it, so her and Michael drove up and helped pack up the house just because it was my friend.
‘‘They were always around to help people.’’
Andrew’s wife, Yuliya, took to Facebook to share her shock and sorrow over the her mother-in-law’s death.
“Today is one of the saddest days in my life,” she wrote on Friday.
“Two wonderful people, my lovely mother-in-law Carol Clancy and her husband Michael Clancy were killed in a plane crash on the flight MH17.”
She also spoke of how her husband’s family had become her ‘‘real family’’ since she migrated to Australia from Belarus - which is wedged between the two countries at the centre of the international furore over the plane crash, Ukraine and Russia.
‘‘They have become a real family for me and were supporting me all the time since I came to Australia,’’ she said.
‘‘I can’t express all the pain that I have ... I will remember you forever and I will miss you so much!’’