Sunday 15 September 2019

Preliminary report into downing of MH17 due 'within weeks'

A piece of the wreckage is seen at a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Petropavlivka (Petropavlovka), Donetsk region. Reuters
A piece of the wreckage is seen at a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Petropavlivka (Petropavlovka), Donetsk region. Reuters
Spectators watch a convoy of hearses carrying victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane disaster on highway A27 near Nieuwegein on their way to be identified by forensic experts in Hilversum. Reuters
Coffins of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, downed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, are loaded into a hearse on the tarmac, during a national reception ceremony, at Eindhoven airport (Reuters/Mischa Rapmund)
Investigators work at a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region. Reuters

A preliminary report into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine is expected to be published "in a few weeks' time", crash investigators have said.

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which is leading the investigation into the July 17 crash, said only a few investigators have been able to visit the crash site and the team had gone back to The Hague in Holland to continue working there.

The DSB said: "The team's efforts will initially focus on the report of preliminary findings, which the DSB aims to publish in a few weeks' time."

A total of 298 people, including 10 Britons, were killed in the crash, with the Boeing 777 plane, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, thought to have been brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

A number of bodies have been bought back to Holland but for a time crash investigators were unable to gain access to the crash site due to conflict in the area. But the flight's black boxes were recovered and were sent to the headquarters of the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch at Farnborough in Hampshire for analysis.

Although both boxes were damaged, valid data were recovered and sent to the DSB in Holland.

The DSB said: "In recent weeks, an international team of some 25 aircraft accident investigators has collected as much investigation information as possible in Ukraine.

"Since it is not necessary to stay in Ukraine any longer to analyse the information and write a report on the preliminary findings, the team has relocated to The Hague to continue its work."

The board said the preliminary report would contain the first factual findings arising from the investigation based on various sources, such as the black box cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder (the black boxes), air traffic control data, radar and satellite images.

It said this information is being compared and will subsequently be analysed.

The DSB said: "Due to the changed safety situation in East Ukraine, it is unclear whether the data can be supplemented with information from further investigations at the crash site.

"To date, under Ukrainian supervision, only a few investigators were able to briefly visit the crash site immediately after the plane crash. Since the DSB took charge of the investigation, no new opportunity has arisen for the team to visit the crash site.

"The investigators who were on stand-by in (the Ukrainian towns of) Kharkov and Soledar to travel to the disaster area returned to the Netherlands last week in the light of the deteriorated safety situation in East Ukraine and the Dutch government's decision to leave the crash site for the time being."

The DSB said it was also conducting an investigation "into the decision-making process concerning the flight routes and the risk assessment made in choosing to fly over East Ukraine". The DSB is also investigating "why the complete passenger list for MH17 was not available immediately".

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