SOUTH Tyneside man Gary Ferguson, who set up a fund in honour of two Newcastle fans killed on board Flight MH17, has met up with the brother of one of the victims.
Sunderland supporter Gary, from South Shields, met Liam Sweeney’s brother Marc at St James’s Park, as he laid a floral tribute on behalf of Sunderland fans.
The tribute depicts a football shirt, half black and white, and half red and white, with the word United across it.
Lifelong Magpies fans Liam 28, and 63-year-old John Alder were among the 298 people who died when their plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
The pair were on their way to watch Newcastle in a pre-season tour of New Zealand.
Sunderland-mad Gary decided to set up an appeal, hoping to raise £100 to buy a floral tribute to the pair, after seeing news of the disaster on fans’ forum Ready to Go.
Gary said he has been overwhelmed by the response to the appeal, which passed the £30,000 mark yesterday.
“It is another milestone,” he said. “I didn’t ever think we would reach £500, then when we reached £1,000 I was over the moon.
“The response has been excellent.”
Gary was joined by Liam Sweeney’s brother Marc outside the ground.
“It was quite emotional,” he said. “There were a lot of people there and they were coming up to shake my hand.”
The money left over from the floral tribute will be split between Newcastle’s Marie Curie Hospice and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, at the request of the families.
Marc Sweeney paid tribute to the hundreds of fans from around the world who have contributed to the fundraising effort.
“It is so moving what the fans have done,” he said. “I am overwhelmed and almost speechless at how much money they have raised.
“I didn’t expect it from Sunderland fans, to be honest.
“I half expected a couple of Tweets or Facebook messages, but nothing on this scale.
“Seeing this today makes getting through each day more bearable, knowing there are people from both sides of the fence looking out for your family.”