Glenn Thomas balloon launch

Dozens of people gathered for a balloon release to mark the first anniversary of the MH17 air disaster, which claimed the life of Blackpool man Glenn Thomas.

Friends and family crowded around the Glitter Ball on Blackpool Promenade on Friday night as 298 white balloons – one for every life lost – were released over the Irish Sea.

Family and friends of Blackpool man Glenn Thomas, who was killed in the MH17 air disaster, pay tribute to those who lost their lives by releasing ballons on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. Photo: Steve McLellan

Family and friends of Blackpool man Glenn Thomas, who was killed in the MH17 air disaster, pay tribute to those who lost their lives by releasing ballons on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. Photo: Steve McLellan

“It was a nice, happy occasion”, said organiser Sophie Holmes.

“We were all stood by the Glitter Ball with these balloons in the strong wind, waiting for Glenn’s nephew Jordan to get there from London.

“We didn’t want to release them early, but the balloons were going everywhere and then we saw Jordan running across the prom to meet us.

“Glenn would have been laughing his head off up there, watching us.”

It was a nice, happy occasion

The balloons were all tagged with a victim’s name and where they were from.

The Malaysian Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine close to the Russian border on July 17 2014, killing all men, women and children on board.

Glenn, 49, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, had boarded the plane to make his way to a medical conference in Australia.

Sophie, 21, who’s mum went to school with Glenn, added: “At first I just wanted to do something for Glenn with friends and family, but then it hit me that there were a significant number of people murdered and their families have not had justice.

Glenn Thomas

Glenn Thomas

“It’s been a year and I felt it was important that they were not forgotten about.”

Sophie, from South Shore, intends to mark the anniversary every year, and is already planning on planting 298 sunflowers next year.

She said: “Sunflowers were Glenn’s favourite flowers and they reflect his joyful, positive personality.

“It’s amazing how many people you meet who have told me what an impact he had on their lives.

“I only met him once, but something he said to me has had a lasting effect on me. He said that if I believed in myself enough and believed in what I was doing, then I could do it and change the world.

“I’ve always remembered that and I’ve since gone on to work for a charity and now I’m going into a school to work with children and their families.

“Glenn was a truly inspirational man and it’s so important that he’s not forgotten.”