Australia, Netherlands Join To Secure Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash Site

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Secure Crash Site

Australia and the Netherlands may join together to secure the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine a week ago. A Dutch-led accident investigation prepared Friday to access the crash site for the firs time to solve several unanswered questions about the incident, including who and what brought down the Boeing 777.

The Dutch Safety Board announced Friday that investigators will perform a focused, limited search of the crash site and debris from the jetliner, which went down in rebel-controlled territory. The Wall Street Journal reports that, rather than looking over the entire crash site, investigators will look for specific traces and materials, including shrapnel and signs that a missile downed the aircraft.

Investigators were unable to access the crash site before because of fierce fighting between pro-Russia separatists and Ukraine forces. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Malaysian and Australian officials have seen the location in recent days.

The Dutch Safety Board leads the official team of 24 investigators in Ukraine, including people from the U.S., the U.K., and the International Civil Aviation Organization, part of the United Nations. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the site is safe for access, but it will be monitored closely.

Yahoo! News adds that 40 unarmed military police will assist the investigators with their task of securing the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated that his government is close to a deal to send 90 federal police officers to the site.

Of the 298 people killed in the crash, 194 were Dutch citizens and 37 were Australian citizens or residents. Both countries have expressed their determination to see the dead brought home and identified and the crash investigated.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking from Kharkiv, Ukraine, stated, “This will be a police-led humanitarian mission. And their will be body identification experts, forensic experts. And of course we will ensure that they are safe, that they will have protection.”

Rutte added in his remarks that he hoped to reach an agreement with Australia and others for the armed police officers this weekend, though the opposition from Russia and the separatists could be a problem. The Dutch Prime Minister explained, “You can’t be active there when the Russians don’t agree. Securing the site is so complicated. I cannot rule out that it reaches a deadlock.”

Safety concerns will prevent investigators from retrieving all debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Typically investigators gather all evidence and assemble the remains of a downed aircraft away from the crash zone. However, that will not be possible in this case because of safety concerns.

While investigators work to secure the crash site, the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch is analyzing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17’s data recorders for information that could pinpoint the cause of the crash.

[Image by Aero Icarus]