Bodies Decomposing at MH17 Crash Site as Rebels Limit Investigation

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 19 2014 12:11 PM

Bodies Decomposing at MH17 Crash Site as Rebels Limit Investigation

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Ukrainian rescue workers walk past a piece of wreckage as they carry the body of a victim on a stretcher.

Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The world is still trying to piece together exactly what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but that challenge has been made even more difficult by the fact that the plane is in rebel-held territory in Ukraine. The team of international observers dispatched to the area has said the pro-Russia separatists, thought to have shot down MH13, are not giving them free reign to investigate the crash site.

Michael Bociurkiw, one of the monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe team, said the restrictions on their work counter the access rebel leaders had promised. "A visibly intoxicated armed guard fired his rifle in the air when one of the observers walked out of the prescribed area," Bociurkiw said. “The 25 monitors withdrew after just over an hour, having been unable to set up an access corridor for specialist teams to investigate the crash, he added, according to a BBC report. “Several bodies had been marked but left exposed to the elements, Mr Bociurkiw said, and rescue workers were unable to indicate whose responsibility it would be to remove them.”

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Here’s more on the state of play at the crash site from the Wall Street Journal:

When international observers arrived for the first time at the Flight 17 crash site outside this separatist-held capital on Friday afternoon, they found what they described as a field of already decomposing body parts and debris, lacking a secure cordon or any discernible on-site management. It was guarded by armed irregulars, some of whom the observers accused of being drunk.
The visit of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, limited to 75 minutes and two areas of debris, and marked by rebel gunfire into the air, didn't bode well for the prospects of the thorough, objective investigation into the Boeing 777's crash that the international community has demanded. Their experience underscored the challenges of securing and investigating such a complex disaster in a self-declared republic in the throes of conflict.
Rain started to fall on Friday and the temperature dropped as body parts, suitcases and personal belongings remained strewn across the landscape. Rebel militiamen guarded the territory and stood by some of the central pieces cordoned off with tape, according to one person who visited the area, but the OSCE said the territory didn't have the sort of full secure perimeter expected of an investigation site.

CNN reports two days after crash, “some bodies remained strapped in seat belts -- wearing inflight headphones.” Here’s more from CNN:

Conspicuously missing at the crash site near Torez were international forensic workers needed to secure and sort the wreckage, and a recovery crew to identify and remove with dignity the bodies… A few things have been moved. Luggage was stacked in piles; mementos, children's toys were handled. Most everything is unguarded, there for the curious -- or for the taking.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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