DEMOTTE | A former exchange student at Kankakee Valley High School who was killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine was remembered Sunday as a friend to all who knew him.
Laurens Van Der Graaff, of the Netherlands, spent about six months living with the DeBoer family in DeMotte in 2003.
Van Der Graaff and the DeBoers' daughter, Jenny Jonkman, completed their senior year of high school together that year and have remained friends since, Jonkman said.
"He touched the hearts of so many people," Jonkman said. "He was friends with everyone."
Van Der Graaff went on to teach Dutch to high school students in the Netherlands. Several years ago, he began dating Karlijn Keijzer, 25, a graduate student at Indiana University, who was also killed in the jet crash last week, Jonkman said.
Van Der Graaff visited Keijzer at IU each spring and fall. Jonkman said she often traveled to Bloomington to spend time with the couple during those visits.
"We got to know her as well," she said. "They were the sweetest people you would ever meet in the world."
Jonkman said Van Der Graaff won her family's hearts starting Jan. 1, 2003, the day they picked him up from the airport.
"He loved basketball," she said. "When he found out he was coming to Indiana, he was so excited because of 'Hoosiers.'"
Van Der Graaff made the varsity team, but he broke his foot in what might have been the team's first game, Jonkman said. He wore a cast for six weeks.
"So he didn't get to play any games, but he went to all of them," she said.
Van Der Graaff was prom king and had a talent for making people laugh, she said.
In high school, he would come up with ridiculous things and tell people that's what Dutch people do, she said. At first, people wouldn't believe him. But he'd persist.
"He would get people to believe it, and then he would say, 'No, I'm just kidding,'" she said.
"He was such a joker. He was just the funniest, happiest person ever," Jonkman said. "I am going to miss him so much."
Keijzer posted a photo of herself and Van Der Graaff at the airport just before boarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Jonkman said. They were headed to Indonesia to vacation with friends who were waiting for them there, she said.
Jonkman's mother, Terri DeBoer, first learned of their deaths after she posted a comment about the couple's photo and was contacted by someone who told her about the tragedy, Jonkman said.
Terri DeBoer messaged Van Der Graaff's brother, who confirmed the information. Jonkman said she and her family are in shock.
"He was my brother, and we always called him her Dutch son," she said of Van Der Graaff and her mother.
The Associated Press reported pro-Moscow rebels piled nearly 200 bodies from the downed Malaysian jetliner into four refrigerated boxcars Sunday in eastern Ukraine, and cranes at the crash scene moved big chunks of the Boeing 777. The activity drew condemnation from Western leaders that the rebels were tampering with the site.
Meanwhile, the United States presented what it called "powerful" evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile and training. Although other governments have stopped short of accusing Russia of actually causing the crash, the U.S. was ahead of most in pointing blame on Moscow for downing the flight, which killed all 298 people aboard.
"Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists," Secretary of State John Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Australia spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone late Sunday, urging him to use his influence on the separatists to ensure the victims could be repatriated and international investigators could have full access to collect evidence. They said European foreign ministers will be meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to consider further sanctions on Russia.
More than three days after the jetliner crashed, international investigators still had only limited access to the sprawling fields where the plane fell.
U.N. Security Council diplomats tweeted Sunday that the council would vote Monday afternoon on a draft resolution co-sponsored by Australia, France and Lithuania that would call for full access to the crash site and an independent investigation.
"Investigators must have immediate full access to MH17 crash site, & bodies treated with dignity," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant tweeted.
In the Netherlands, worshippers at church services prayed for the victims, as anger grew over the rebels' hindering of the investigation.
Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend, Daisy Oehlers, were among those killed, said she was appalled their bodies weren't being handed over.
"Mr. Putin, send my children home," she said, speaking on Sky TV from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. "Send them home. Please."