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MH17 Co-Pilot Had a 'Zest for Life,' Friends Say

Friends of the co-pilot of Malaysia Airlines MH17 told NBC News that he was a man with a passion for his family, friends and adventure. Pilot Eugene Choo Jin Leong, 45, was usually quiet, "but when he starts cracking jokes he will be the most funniest person," said Low Mi Yen, a friend from his hometown in northern Malaysia. Patrick Lim, a friend who said he had known Choo Jin Leong for more than 40 years echoed that he could be quiet, "but when he talks, he can really talk."

Both Low and Lim said Choo Jin Leong lived his life to the fullest. He enjoyed riding his motorbike and his penchant for excitement transferred to his dedication for his flying career. But both said even with the busy schedule he kept, he made time for his friends, his wife and two sons. Lim said she will miss the man who had a "zest for life," and she questions why he was taken on the flight that was shot down over Ukraine Thursday with 298 people on board. "When I got that news, I think, immediately I was unable to function," she recounted.

Image: MH17 co-pilot Eugene Choo Jin Leong, third from right in third row from bottom, stands with his group of friends during a reunion.
MH17 co-pilot Eugene Choo Jin Leong, third from right in third row from bottom, stands with his group of friends during a reunion. Courtesy Low Mi Yen

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— Ed Flanagan and Elisha Fieldstadt