The Wall Street Journal: Some bodies removed from MH17 crash site
By Paul Sonne and Margaret Coker
Railway employees work Sunday near refrigerator wagons, which according to employees and local residents contain bodies of passengers of the crashed Malaysia Airlines MH17.
Some of the bodies and human remains of 200 individuals recovered from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were loaded into three refrigerated railcars in the city of Torez, in an apparent first stage to prepare them for transport and identification.
Ukrainian emergency workers, under observation from the armed separatists in control over the area, helped transfer the remains either late last night or early Sunday, according to Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the monitoring mission overseen by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Volodymyr Grossman, the Ukrainian official in charge of the international recovery effort, said 192 corpses and eight sets of remains were stacked inside the railcars. The numbers have been provided to the Ukrainians and OSCE from Ukrainian federal emergency services workers who were responsible for collecting and tagging the remains.
At the train station earlier Sunday, the OSCE team on the ground in eastern Ukraine didn’t independently verify the numbers of bodies in the railcars, in part due to the strong stench because of the time lapse since Flight 17 was shot down on Thursday.
Ukrainian emergency workers have said the location and disposition of the other 98 passengers is still unknown. Flight 17 was carrying 298 people from 10 countries.
The Donetsk deputy prosecutor general, Eduard Yakubovsky, said 34 sets of remains from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were being stored in the city’s morgue, awaiting identification.
Villagers in Rozsypne called emergency workers after the bodies fell from the sky into their homes and yards. The prosecutor said he traveled to the village, took witness statements and oversaw the removal of the corpses both for humanitarian and sanitary reasons.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Yakubovsky said one of the corpses may be one of the pilots, as the body was found still strapped to his chair in his clothes.
“We wrote down the details, packed the bodies and put them in a truck. Remnants of the bodies, torn mail bags and envelopes were spread around, “ he said.
It wasn’t possible to immediately verify the information, as journalists haven’t been allowed access to the city morgue to view the remains.
Mr. Yakubovsky added that following protests by Malaysian officials about the rebels’ handling of the remains, the local authorities decided Saturday not to touch other bodies in the area of the crash site.
However, the authorities changed their decision later Saturday, said the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People Republic, Alexander Borodai.
Borodai said that his men handled the remains with care. “We understand that many of the victims were of Islamic faith, so we decided on order not to desecrate the bodies not to perform autopsy,” he said
He said that his men will keep the remains within the territory under their control until international experts arrive to take over the investigation of the plane crash. He expected a Malaysian team of experts to arrive later Sunday.
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com