There is a real possibility that not all the remains of MH17 disaster victims will be recovered, the Australian Federal Police confirmed yesterday.
Forensic experts from the AFP said overnight that both the nature of the incident — which blackbox flight recorder data has confirmed was caused a missile strike — and the delay in recovering the victims from the rebel-controlled Ukrainian warzone meant there was a chance the remains of some victims would never be found.
MH17 investigators struggle to reach site
Heavy fighting in Ukraine continues to hamper investigators' efforts to find answers in the crash of flight MH17.
An international team of 200 forensic experts at the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks at Hilversum in the Netherlands is working to identify the contents of the 227 coffins which have so far been transported from the Ukrainian crash site. Australia has a team of 19 disaster victim identification specialists (DVI) at Hilversum and 19 based in the Ukraine waiting for access to the crash site.
Among the Australians are DVI specialists who worked on recovery operations after the Bali bombings, the Boxing Day tsunami, the Victorian bushfires ,the Christmas Island refugee boat tragedy, last year’s Philippines typhoon and in warzones including Kosovo.
The AFP confirmed yesterday that once the bodies of Australian victims had been identified the families would decide when the bodies would be repatriated to Australia.
The AFP said when forensic investigators were confident they have an identity match, the results are passed to an “identity commission” — a panel of experts such as police and coroners — for confirmation before families are notified.
The Federal Government is in talks with families to establish how they would like the remains of their loved ones returned — whether it be using military transportation or commercial flights.
The AFP confirmed overnight that families had already been contacted by officers from either the AFP or state police to help collect primary sources of DNA that might be crucial to identifying their loved ones' remains.
Hair and toothbrushes, items which may carry fingerprints, dental records, and DNA samples from close family members have all been collected from relatives.
The forensic facility at the Hilversum barracks was described yesterday as a temporary mortuary in a permanent building.
There is no timeframe for the completion of the forensic task, which is being led by the Dutch.