Tyne & Wear

MH17 families to thank rival football fans

John Alder and Liam Sweeney Image copyright Facebook and family handout
Image caption John Alder and Liam Sweeney were travelling to New Zealand to see Newcastle United play

Relatives of two Newcastle United fans killed in the MH17 air disaster are visiting rivals Sunderland after supporters raised more than £33,000.

John Alder and Liam Sweeney, 28, were on their way to see Newcastle play in New Zealand, when their Malaysia Airlines flight came down on 17 July.

Sunderland supporters mounted a campaign to raise cash for charities close to the two men.

Family members will take to the pitch at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

'Friendly derby'

Mr Sweeney's grandfather David will be among the relatives who will address Sunderland supporters before the team's game against Tottenham Hotspur.

He said: "When I saw what the Sunderland fans were doing it brought a tear.

"It was clear that they were supporting us 100% and from then I said I wanted to go to Sunderland to thank their fans in person.

"There will be 12 representatives from both families going down there and two or three of us will be presented to the crowd so we can thank them for what they have done."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Wreckage from the plane was scattered near the village of Grabovo

Mr Sweeney also said he hoped future derby clashes between Newcastle and Sunderland would become long-standing tributes to the victims of the crash.

He said: "What I'd personally like is for the derby matches to be treated as memorials to the two lads who died.

"So instead of them being known as the 'nasty derby' they could become the 'friendly derby'".

Earlier this week Dutch investigators said the damage to the plane suggests it was pierced by a large number of objects from outside the plane, with speculation that a missile was responsible.

All 298 people on the flight died.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites