Body parts retrieved at crash site by investigators working close to war zone

Wearing gloves and carrying blue plastic buckets, international investigators finally began gathering up body parts and victims’ belongings Friday in the fields where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 came down.

HRABOVE, Ukraine — Wearing gloves and carrying blue plastic buckets, international investigators finally began gathering up body parts and victims’ belongings Friday in the fields where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 came down.

Artillery boomed in the distance as the 70-member team of Dutch and Australian experts painstakingly combed a patch of scrubland not far from the site of bloody clashes between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatist rebels.

The team’s top priority: collecting the remains of as many as 80 victims that have been lying out in the open, baking in the midsummer heat, for more than two weeks because investigators were prevented by the fighting from reaching the scene.

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the Dutch recovery mission, said in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv that the experts were able to gather some of the human remains. He would not give details out of respect for the victims’ relatives.

The pace set Friday hinted at the magnitude of the task ahead.

Aalbersberg said a team of 30 experts spent two hours after lunchtime searching an area of just 30 square yards (25 square meters). The overall area to explore covers more than 8 square miles (20 square kilometres).

“If we have maximum capacity, we think we need at least three weeks to do a full search, but that’s a very thin prospect,” he said.

The objects collected included papers and books belonging to some of the 298 people killed aboard the Boeing 777 that was shot down on July 17 with what the West says was a Russian-made missile fired by the rebels.

In a haphazard effort overseen by the rebels, more than 200 bodies were collected by rescue workers and were turned over to Dutch authorities last week for examination and identification.

Everything discovered Friday was first identified and photographed, then put into bags by recovery workers wearing protective gear. The bags were then placed in the blue buckets.

Some recovery experts photographed pieces of the plane’s fuselage and tail. Rebel fighters guarded the perimeter of the zone and kept their distance from the investigators.

The remains will be put in refrigerated train cars Saturday, taken 190 miles (300 kilometres) to the city of Kharkiv and then flown to the Netherlands. Nearly 200 of the victims were Dutch.

“Perseverance pays off,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. “The first step has been taken, but the security situation is still volatile.”

Several hours before the team arrived at the crash site outside the village of Hrabove, at least 10 Ukrainian soldiers were killed when their convoy was ambushed by rebels in a town 12 miles (20 kilometres) to the south.

Thirteen more soldiers were unaccounted for after the attack, officials said, and the bodies of four other people were being examined to determine whether they were soldiers or rebels.

The investigators plus officials with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe travelled to the crash site from the rebel-held city of Donetsk in 15 cars and a bus.

The three-hour journey took the investigating team through the government-held town of Debaltseve and back into the separatist-controlled territory where the wreckage lies. At Debaltseve, the convoy was joined by Red Cross vehicles.

As the experts began working, artillery fire could be heard in the distance. It was unclear how far away the shells were landing and which side was firing.

Aalbersberg said investigators will face an easier journey to the site now they are relocating from Donetsk to a base on the grounds of a school, clinic and sports complex in the government-controlled town of Soledar, 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the scene.

Just Posted

Trudeau poised to shuffle, retool cabinet with focus on Liberals’ team for 2019

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau will shuffle his front benches Wednesday to install… Continue reading

Aecon Group joint venture wins Enbridge Line 3 replacement contract

TORONTO — Aecon Group Inc. says its joint venture with Robert B.… Continue reading

Conservative party pulls attack ad of black man walking over Trudeau tweet

OTTAWA — The Conservative party pulled an attack ad from its Twitter… Continue reading

Groundbreaking ceremony held for new international bridge

DETROIT — U.S. and Canadian officials touted the friendship between the two… Continue reading

Elon Musk apologizes for calling cave rescue diver a ‘pedo’

BANGKOK — Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has apologized for calling… Continue reading

Duchess of Sussex wears dress by Calgary’s Nonie to Mandela exhibition

CALGARY — A fondness for Canadian fashion apparently hasn’t waned for Meghan,… Continue reading

Destiny’s Child singer Williams seeks mental health help

LOS ANGELES — Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams says she’s seeking help… Continue reading

A Comic-Con without Marvel, HBO gives others a chance to pop

Over 130,000 pop culture devotees are descending on San Diego’s Gaslamp District… Continue reading

Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game 8-6 in 10 innings

American League 8 National League 6 (1o innings) WASHINGTON — A record… Continue reading

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Man suffers critical injuries, Red Deer police arrest woman in pedestrian crash

A man is in hospital with critical injuries and Mounties have arrested… Continue reading

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month