Local emergency services in eastern Ukraine have begun collecting parts of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from its crash site in the middle of the conflict zone, Dutch air accident investigators said Sunday. Dutch inspectors had hoped to collect the parts themselves, following the downing of the flight on July 17 that killed 298 people, two thirds of them Dutch citizens.
But they remain concerned about the safety of their staff in the rebel-held conflict zone, and so have decided to work with local services following an initial focus on finding human remains and belongings. The crash of flight MH17 stirred angry mutual accusations between Moscow and the West over who was responsible.
"The crash area is large, so we do not intend to recover all the wreckage," said Safety Board spokesman Wim van der Weegen. "We've got a specific number of items we would like to recover." Around a dozen Dutch officials are on the site supervising the work of Ukrainian emergency services, including two Safety Board employees, van der Weegen said. Dutch authorities are leading both the air accident and criminal investigation into the downing of the Kuala Lumpur-bound Boeing 777 from Amsterdam.