1 American dead in Malaysia Airlines crash - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Malaysia demands access to bodies, investigative team arrives in Kiev

Posted: Updated:
President Barack Obama confirms one American killed in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine. (Source: CNN) President Barack Obama confirms one American killed in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine. (Source: CNN)
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday demanded that an independent investigation take place into what downed the airplane. (Source: CNN) Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday demanded that an independent investigation take place into what downed the airplane. (Source: CNN)
American officials believe the plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile. (Source: CNN) American officials believe the plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile. (Source: CNN)
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(RNN/CNN) – After delays reportedly caused by the obstruction of pro-Russian separatists in charge of the crash site, recovery teams started on Saturday collecting the human remains from the 298 who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exploded over eastern Ukraine. Backed by Malaysia’s demand for a thorough investigation and justice for those responsible, a team of 131 Malaysian investigators arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Saturday.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence to force the rebels to allow full access. Nearly two-thirds of those aboard the jetliner, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, were Dutch.

"I want to see results in the form of unimpeded access and rapid recovery," Rutte said in a press briefing. "This is now priority No. 1."

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said during an emotional briefing on Saturday that he will fly to Kiev as well to help ensure the team of experts gets access to the crash site. He said the Ukrainian government has promised a safe corridor to eastern Ukraine. But it is unclear what the Malaysian investigators will be able to accomplish with the crash site being under the firm control of pro-Russian separatists.

Tiong Lai said the earlier treatment of the bodies of the deceased passengers was inhumane. The bodies have been reported to be decomposing, and highs will be in the 80s on Saturday in eastern Ukraine.

“Citizens of 11 nations - none of whom are involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine - cannot be laid to rest,” he said. “Their lives were taken by violence; now violence stops them being accorded their final respect. This cannot continue.”

He also expressed concern about evidence tampering.

“Interfering with the scene of the crash risks undermining the investigation itself,” Tiong Lai said. “Any actions that prevent us from learning the truth about what happened to MH17 cannot be tolerated.”

He again defended the flight path over Ukraine noting that dozens of planes had taken the same path days before the tragedy.

“The flight and its operators followed the rules. But on the ground, the rules of war were broken. In an unacceptable act of aggression, it appears that MH17 was shot down; its passengers and crew killed by a missile,” he said. “This outrage cannot go unpunished. Once again, Malaysia condemns this brutal act of aggression, and calls for those responsible to be found, and to face the full force of justice without delay.”

The armed, masked separatists have prevented international monitors and investigators from examining the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

On Friday, 25 monitors from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were given limited access for about 75 minutes to a small part of the crash scene in eastern Ukraine. They said they witnessed decomposing bodies among the huge debris field before they were chased off by separatist militia.

The OSCE team hopes to get back to the site and obtain the plane’s black boxes, CNN has reported.

Ukrainian officials say the plane’s black boxes are still on Ukrainian soil, but not in their hands, the report said. 

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE, told CNN that there did not seem to be anyone in control of the situation.  The militia members also could not answer what happened to the plane's black boxes.  "It basically looks like the biggest crime scene in the world right now, guarded by a bunch of guys in uniform with heavy firepower who are quite inhospitable," Bociurkiw said.

U.S. intelligence said that the surface-to-air missile that brought down the plane, killing 298 people was fired from inside Ukraine, but would have required help from Russia to fire the missiles. "Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the system," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the U.N. Security council Friday. 

Power told the Security Council "there was nothing threatening or provocative about MH17" as it flew over Ukrainian airspace and says the U.S. has concluded the plane was likely hit by an SA-11 missile.

U.K. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant pointed the finger of blame at Russia, saying the country is responsible for arming separatists.

"Let us hear today clear and unequivocal condemnation from Russia for the actions of these armed groups. These armed groups do not represent the people of Ukraine. Without Russian support, they would wither," Grant said.

CNN reports that there is video released by the Ukrainian government showing a Buk missile system crossing the border back into Russia with one missile missing, and the Ukrainian government points to that video as evidence that Russia is heavily involved with the separatists.

Earlier on Friday, President Barack Obama called for an immediate cease fire. Obama urged Russia and the rebels not to touch the crash site so international investigators, including those from the National Transportation and Safety Board, can conduct an investigation.

Obama also confirmed one American was killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and that intelligence showed the missile that shot down the plane was fired by "Russian-backed separatists."

"No one can deny the truth in the awful images that we have seen," he said. "And we're going to make sure the truth is out."

Bociurkiw said the perimeter of the site is not secure, and cannot comment on if any bodies or material have been removed.

A Ukrainian official said 181 bodies had been recovered. Many of the passengers were AIDS researchers headed to Australia for an international conference.

Russia President Vladimir Putin asked Friday for both sides in the conflict to lay down their arms and have peace talks.

CNN reported 95 people and 18 vehicles were involved in the search and recovery operation over the nine-mile wide debris field.

Pro-Russian separatists in control of the area have provided conflicting information on the rescue. Separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai said no black boxes had been recovered from the plane, according to the Associated Press. However, an aide to Borodai's group said eight of 12 recording devices had been found.

The AP report stated planes usually carry only two black boxes.

Ukraine Security Service released intercepted audio they claimed to be a phone call between pro-Russian militants shortly after the crash, as well as a translated transcript. The men in the call said they had shot down the plane thinking it was a military aircraft.

Two men, identified as "Major" and "Grek," then realize it was a passenger jet.

Major: "I haven’t ascertained (the type of aircraft). I haven’t been to the main site. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies."

Grek: "Is there anything left of the weapon?"

Major: "Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper."

Grek: "Are there documents?"

Major: "Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson."

A man identified as Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin was then told that TV identified it as a transport plane, but it says "Malaysia Airlines" on a piece of the wreckage.

“That means they were carrying spies," Kozitsin said. "They shouldn’t be f___g flying. There is a war going on.”

OSCE staff have been detained and even jailed in the past in eastern Ukraine during the ongoing conflict.  

The National Transportation Safety Board said it would send one investigator to Ukraine and their "response will be guided by events as they unfold." 

Body parts and bodies were seen in fields and a nearby village in what is described as a gruesome scene, according to the AP.

Rescue teams, which include policemen and even coal miners, were going through the site in eastern Ukraine, according to the report.

Both Malaysian and Australia have asked for independent fact-finding teams amid concerns over tampering with physical evidence.

The plane was flying at 33,000 feet and did not make a distress call. The Boeing 777 aircraft was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Airlines says 154 victims were Dutch, 43, including the crew, were Malaysian and 28 were Australian. Other passengers hailed from the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada.  

The American on board has been identified as Quinn Lucas Schansman, who was born in the U.S. but moved to the Netherlands as a child, according to the Associated Press. He was 19 years old.

Malaysian officials on Friday defended their use of the airspace over Ukraine noting that other airlines also were flying over the embattled nation.  

Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, says the airspace was closed up to 32,000 feet, but "was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying." The airspace is now closed until further notice and "all flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being rejected by Eurocontrol."

According to the European Cockpit Association, the route being flown by the plane "is the most common route for flights from Europe to South East Asia."

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko called it the result of a "terrorist action."

"Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," he said.

Rebels said they did not shoot down the plane and blamed the Ukrainian government.

On Putin's website, he acknowledged he and President Barack Obama discussed the crash of MH-17, as well as the hostilities in Ukraine and the tightening of sanctions against Russia.

"The U.S. will offer its assistance to determine what happened and why," Obama said Thursday.

The flight left Amsterdam at 12:14 p.m. local time and was scheduled to last about 12 hours. That would have put it in Kuala Lumpur around 6 a.m. local time on July 18.

Izzy Sim said she and her family were supposed to be on the flight but switched to a later flight because there weren't enough seats on the plane.

"I'm shaking. I don't even know what to do and I'm physically sick," she told RTL. "I feel like I've been given a second chance."

The Federal Aviation Administration prohibited U.S. aircraft from flying over the Crimea region of Ukraine and Russia since April 25, citing concerns for air-traffic control.

Boeing, the maker of the airplane, issued a statement from their Seattle office: "Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the Malaysia Airlines airplane lost over Ukrainian airspace, as well as their families and loved ones. Boeing stands ready to provide whatever assistance is requested by authorities."

A Ukrainian cargo plane crashed near the border Monday. A Ukraine government official said they believe it was shot down from the border, and initial reports from U.S. intelligence said the cargo plane was shot down from the Russia side of the border.

In late 2013, then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who has close ties to Moscow, pulled out of an associated deal with the EU, sparking protests that led to his downfall. Russian troops invaded the Crimean section of Ukraine, with the government later annexing it, and pro-Russian separatists have continued a conflict with Ukraine troops.

The Obama administration announced stronger sanctions Wednesday against Russia.

This incident coincided with the 18th anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800. The Boeing 747 was traveling from New York to Paris when it exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean nine miles off the coast of New York on July 17, 1996. The crash killed all 230 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared en route to Beijing, China, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8. The flight was carrying 239 people, including three Americans, and gave no signals of distress before losing communication.

On Sept. 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union in the East Sea. Originally, the Soviets denied any knowledge of the incident but later claimed the plane was on a spy mission. The flight data recorders were not released for eight years.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved. CNN contributed to this report.
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