MH17: 'justice' demands thorough investigation
Crash investigators face almost unsurmountable challenges, but for the sake of the 298 victims, they must try, says retired US transport investigator Hank Hughes.PT0M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3c7g6 620 349 July 19, 2014
Reports of looting are now emerging from the crash site of MH17 as bodies remain strewn across the area more than 24 hours after the disaster.
Adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, Anton Gerashchenko has reported that "terrorists" have begun collecting valuables belonging to the victims of the tragedy.
"Death-hunters collecting Were not Only Cash money and Jewelry of the crashed Boing passengers died but Also the credit cards of the Victims [sic]," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Pro-Russian separatists look at passengers' belongings at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Photo: Reuters
The reports come alongside those of a chaotic investigation being conducted among the wheat fields at the crash site.
Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s special monitoring mission for Ukraine, told ABC News Radio that bodies at the crash site were already “starting to decompose in the fields”.
''It is astonishing to go there and this scene with no recovery going on,'' Mr Bociurkiw said.
A pro-Russian separatist holds up a stuffed toy found at the crash site. Photo: Reuters
He said there there appeared to be no tampering with bodies at the site except markers were being placed near to them or to body parts. He said debris seemed to still be in place. He said the crash site could be up to six kilometres wide.
''It is a very, very gruesome scene and it boggles the mind that this could go on, we are going into day two or three now,'' Mr Bociurkiw said.
He said it was disturbing to find no credible leader in the separatist-held area to establish the facts at the site.
There have been reports of looting and gunfire at the site of the wreckage. Photo: MAXIM ZMEYEV
Questions remained about how many bodies were there and the location of the black box. Mr Bociurkiw's delegation needed to find out whether it was safe enough for international experts to begin their investigation into the disaster. He said many of the separatists appeared ''very aggressive'', under the influence of alcohol and possibly drugs.
''It is kind of the world's biggest crime scene right now,'' Mr Bociurkiw said.
He said his team had been in touch with Malaysian senior officials whose prime concern was that the bodies were treated in a human way.
''One immediate requirement would be refrigerated trailers - anything where these bodies could be moved - so they don't continue to lie there, exposed to the elements,'' Mr Bociurkiw said.
He said, 25 workers from the OSCE had access to the crash site for just 75 minutes before they were forced to leave. He said a gun shot was fired into the air as they left.
OSCE council chairman, Thomas Greminger told Reuters that workers assessing the scene "did not have the kind of access that they expected. They did not have the freedom of movement that they need to do their job. The crash site is not sealed off".
Denjen Doroschenko, an Australian journalist working in Ukraine told Fairfax Media in a radio interview that separatist organisations on the ground were "clueless about how to control a disaster area at all".
Dr Geoff Dell, an air crash investigation expert from Central Queensland University, said in any crash investigation it is critical that all on site know what they are doing.
"The longer it stays unexamined the more likely it gets contaminated, especially when there is people that aren’t really familiar with accident scenes, stomping all over it," he said.
"The longer that goes on the more likely something you’re looking for is either destroyed, or stolen."
He referred to Lauda Air Flight 004 which crashed in Thailand in 1991, in which a critical component was never found due to looting.
"Overnight a large percentage of the wreckage was pilfered. Pieces of the airplane that you couldn’t for the life of you think someone would want to steal, were taken," he said.
Dr Dell said it was crucial that proper protocols were followed, such as protecting the perimeter to keep people out and setting up a grid.
"You draw up a grid so you can set up the relationship with the wreckage and identify exactly where each critical piece of evidence came from," he said.
Armed guards are reportedly guarding the crash site near Torez, in a remote eastern area of Ukraine, where it is said the typical investigation grid is absent.
Dr Dell said bodies that are still at the scene pose a different risk, as the risk of infection and disease to investigators on the crash scene increases.
"It's inevitable some contamination will take place during the rescue of removal of the bodies," he said.
"In other parts of the world there is less awareness of that, and I wouldn't be surprised given what we’ve seen, if the crash site hasn't already been substantially altered by the actions of the people in the first response."