Spot report by Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) on visit to locations related to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash, 21 July 2014
Dutch forensics experts – accompanying the SMM – assessed the storage conditions for bodies on board the train at Torez railway station as good. At the main crash site, all bodies had been removed. The recovery process was assessed by the Dutch forensics experts as good.
On 21 July an SMM team of 14 monitors visited three locations related to the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight in the Donetsk region. The SMM was again escorted by armed guards provided by the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”). The SMM, as on previous visits, facilitated access for the Ukrainian National Bureau for Investigations of Air Accidents and Incidents in Civilian Aviation. The SMM was also accompanied by three forensics experts from the Dutch National Forensics Investigation Team – the Landelijk Team Forensische Opsporing (LTFO).
At 11:20 hrs the SMM arrived at the railway station in Torez. The five train carriages (four of which are refrigerated), which the SMM observed on 20 July, were still at the station. The Dutch forensics team entered the carriages and assessed that the storage conditions were good. The SMM and the forensics experts witnessed the closure and sealing of three of the four refrigerated carriages. The fourth, which was empty at the time, remained open for the delivery of additional body bags during the day.
When the SMM returned to Torez train station at 17:30 hrs, it monitored the arrival of a truck with one body bag, which was loaded onto the fourth carriage. The carriage now contained additional body bags. The fourth carriage was sealed in the presence of the SMM and the Dutch forensics experts. A “DPR” representative informed the SMM that they had thus far collected 282 bodies; the SMM is unable to confirm this number.
In Torez in the morning of 21 July, the “DPR” had assured the SMM that the train would be allowed to leave for Kharkiv as soon as the remaining bodies had been loaded, and provided it was accompanied by the Dutch forensics experts and two SMM monitors. This was subsequently not possible due to the reported shelling of one of the railway stations in Donetsk city during the day. The “DPR” instead agreed to guard and move the train to a safe location in Donetsk city.
At 13:20 hrs the SMM arrived at the main crash site, which the SMM had visited on the three previous days, near the village of Grabove. The SMM did not see any perimeter security in place and was given unhindered access to the site. There was noticeably less activity and the Emergency Services were no longer present, with three of the four tents previously used for administration and planning, having been removed. The SMM observed that what appeared to be hand luggage had been collected into piles. The SMM saw that one of the largest pieces of debris had been split in two. Elsewhere, a considerable amount of smaller debris appeared to have been moved. The SMM observed that all bodies previously visible at the site had been recovered, although several smaller body parts remained. Two trucks loaded with 30 body bags and several smaller bags containing body parts left the site at 14:20 hrs. The Dutch forensics experts assessed that the body-recovery work at this site was good.
At 16:15 hrs the SMM arrived at an incident scene previously not visited by the SMM, near the village of Nikishine, approximately 4 km from the main crash site. The SMM saw multiple pieces of debris of various sizes widely scattered over an area of approximately one square kilometre. There was no evidence of human remains. The site was not guarded. The SMM left the site at 16:45 hrs.