MH17: gunmen hamper access to site
International observers say separatists in eastern Ukraine stopped them observing the site where the Malaysian airliner crashed, killing almost 300 people from 11 countries.PT1M58S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3c7up 620 349 July 19, 2014
Walking around the crash site of the ill-fated MH17, freelance photojournalist Filip Warwick witnessed the lives of nearly 300 victims frozen in time.
"I saw one or two passengers still strapped into their seats," he told Fairfax Media from Donetsk province, the epicentre of the pro-Russian movement and the region in which the Malaysia Airlines flight fell.
Ukrainian coal miners sift through flower fields in the grim search for remains. Photo: AP
"It's a very grim sight out there.
"So many bodies are beyond recognition, and then there are one or two with barely a scratch and then other cases just bones."
While Ukraine has invited international aviation representatives to assist with the investigation of the MH17 crash, actually getting those representatives to the site is a separate challenge, said Warwick.
"They can arrive to Kiev, but it's another matter altogether of having them actually access the site itself," he said.
Members of the public and pro-Russian separatists have been able to access the crash site without restrictions, raising fears the site has been contaminated. Photo: AP
"In terms of the area itself there are a number of checkpoints. Even to get here from Donetsk itself you have to go through six or seven checkpoints."
Warwick's arrival at the scene came in the first few hours before there was any security presence, and he believes he saw strong evidence that looting was already well underway.
"I noticed that I hadn't come across a single wallet with money, or a mobile phone or a camera. They've all mysteriously gone missing."
Men search a field in eastern Ukraine for victims of flight MH17. Photo: AFP
Among the shocks for Warwick was the almost complete lack of official presence or signs of investigation, noting: "The place hadn’t yet been roped off."
When he arrived he said villagers, locals and journalists were walking around stepping on wings and over the wreckage.
Speaking with Fairfax Media more than 24 hours after a surface-to-air-missile struck flight MH17, he noted the absence of organised disaster recovery procedures, such as a "grid".
"The grid is to make sure you have nothing left uncovered. You would use a grid to make marks of the location and you would also mark the various pieces of evidence on the ground," he said.
"So a body would be marked in a particular colour, personal items given a particular colour and plane parts a particular colour. This is standard procedure for any crime scene and this is missing as we speak."
Dr Geoff Dell, an air crash investigation expert from Central Queensland University, also emphasised the importance of proper investigation protocols such as the setting up of a grid when he spoke with Fairfax Media.
Warwick said he believed the absence of such protocols suggested that those on the ground lacked "the know-how" in dealing with such circumstances.
He reported that a group of 10 separatist soldiers were situated slightly off from the crash site, but "they weren't interacting with anyone and there wasn't anyone interacting with them.
"The only people you could talk to are the emergency services, who are looking for bodies and they won't comment," he said.
Local miners, firemen, fathers and sons have all been seen in the crash area, where bodies are being marked by sticks with white ribbons.
The bodies are reportedly "starting to decompose in the fields", yet Warwick said there was no indication as to when a recovery operation for the victims would take place.