Overview of MH17 body recovery, autopsy and identification process

This blogpost will provide some insight into the process of recovery of the MH17 victims and the identification of the bodies.,

Initially local people like miners started searching for bodies. All locations were bodies were found were marked with a pole and some white fabric.

Soon after the crash happened the local emergency authority Ukrainian State Emergency Services  (SES) started recovery of the bodies. Bodies were taken out of the field and put near roads. Bodies were covered in toxic formaldehyde to delay the decomposition body of the body in the summer heat. Then bodies were put in body bags and put in trucks.  (source)

37 bodies were found  near the location where the cockpit and part of the business class was found (village of Rozsypne). These bodies were transported to the Kalininskiy mortuary of Donetsk. This happened at July 17 and 18. Likely the bodies of the cockpit crew and purser who were in the cockpit were part of those 37.

At July 18 the identification of the 37 bodies brought to the Kalininskiy mortuary started. A section of rib was removed from 11 bodies as part of the identification process. This is a common local working procedure. The Dutch decided to stop the id process and perform identification in the Netherlands.

At July 19 the bodies in the Kalininskiy mortuary were transported to the Torez railwaystation. (source)

Bodies were loaded on trucks and brought to a train at Torez railway station. The train had  3 wagons with cooling. The remains of victims  were labelled and numbered

From July 17 till July 21 , 282 bodies were recovered and 87 body parts. Besides the local emergency team of SES, also Dutch and Australian teams searched for bodies.

At July 21 around 18:00 the train with bodies leaves Torez with destination Kharkiv. Malaysian police officers and Dutch people are on board the train. Kharkiv was controlled by Ukraine.

Kharkiv

Ukraine government spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Kharkiv was ready to receive the bodies. “We have everything in Kharkiv, experts from international organisations and from Ukraine,” he said. “They have all the facilities ready for all the forensic investigation and examination. “If the train is dispatched and arrives we are prepared to receive it.” (source)

At July 22 at around 10:30 the train arrives in Kharkiv. The Dutch stated only 200 bodies arrived in Kharkiv. A claim which turned out to be incorrect.

The train arrived in a  Malyshev tank factory ! The factory is owned by Ukraine’s state arms industry, UkrOboronProm. The preliminary disaster victim identification (DVI) work on the remains is started here by INTERPOL’s Incident Response Team (IRT)  . The 10-strong IRT is currently comprised of three Dutch DVI specialists, one of whom is the IRT leader, four INTERPOL officials, a Brazilian forensics expert and current chair of the INTERPOL DVI Steering Group and representatives from Europol and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). (source)

In Kharkiv all bodies arrived packed in body bags. All bodies were scanned in an X-ray machine to make sure there were no bombs in the body bag. The body bags in which the victims’ remains had been packed by the local SES were not opened before they were airlifted to the Netherlands. (source). However this reads different.

“There was a lot of human remains. The size of the bags and the amount of remains in each varied. Obviously we were dealing with a lot of partial bodies and I expected that, but the body fragmentation was less that I thought you’d get with an aircraft breaking up at 10,000 metres.”(source)

The bodies including the body bag was packed in a coffin. A coffin may contain one or several body bags. Investigation will have to determine whether a body bag contain a single body or body parts.

A x-ray of one of the crewmembers who was in the cockpit at the time of the explosion was published by Ukraine censor.net. The x-ray was highly likely made in Kharkiv.

At July 23 two aircraft with 40 bodies in total leave Kharkiv airport with destination Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The next day more bodies are flown to Eindhoven.

The bodies are loaded from the aircraft into hearses. The hearses the immediately drive to Hilversum where the identification and autopsy process is done.

 

The National Forensic Investigation Team, or LTFO, started the identification process on Wednesday evening (23/7), immediately after the arrival of the first bodies. On Saturday July 26, the first victim has been identified. Forensic specialists from Australia, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia were also cooperating in Hilversum, the Netherlands. They totalled 200: 80 from abroad and 120 from the Netherlands.  (source)

Hilversum

In total 5000 human remains were brought in. The first four week about 300 people were working 24/7 on autopsy and identification.

After the bodies arrived by hearses in Hilversum they were stored in cooled sea containers. Each coffin was carried by 6 persons under full respect from the hearse to the container.

Later each body was taken out of the cooled container and brought to the location where forenstic and DVI investigation was done.

Each coffin was tested by Dutch military staff for chemical and biological hazards, and then put through a CT scanner – those showing “foreign” objects were diverted to a “limited forensic autopsy for prosecution purposes”, otherwise they proceeded to the DVI examination area. I

Because of the toxic formaldehyde used by SES in Ukraine all staff was wearing oxygen masks.

There were two main objectives for the team working in Hilversum. The autopsy and forensic investigation to find out the cause of death and the identification process.

The forensic autopsy  was done by Dutch staff of the NFI. (Nederlands Forensisch Instituut).

A different process in a different building was the identification of the bodies. This was done by the LTFO (Landelijk Team Forensische Opsporing)

Both procesess were fully closed for people not taking part in the process. Even the Malaysian Prime Minister was not allowed to enter the buildings.

The Australian DVI team was involved purely in identifying victims and that any forensic examination of the victims on behalf of the criminal or safety investigations was done independently, a reference apparently to a separate, area of the Hilversum mortuary which was mostly Dutch-staffed, according to Ranson, the Victorian forensic pathologist. (source)

In October 2014, three months after the crash, chief Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke revealed that 500 metal particles had been recovered from victims’ bodies and from the wreckage – among them were 25, described as iron, which were of particular interest, presumably because they might help in identifying the missile system or any other weapon used in the attack on MH17 (source)

The DSB final report concluded that there were no pre-formed fragments found in bodies of people in the cabine.

Cockpit crew identification

On board of MH17 were two cockpit crews: team A was in the cockpit at the time of the explosion and was flying the aircraft. A third person in the cockpit was a purser. The captain flying was aged 44 years, assisted by a first officer, aged 26 years.

Cockpit team B was a relief crew consisting of a captain (Wan Amran 49 years) and first officer ( aged 29) . Where they were located at the time of the explosion is unknown. Likely they were in the crew rest area directly behind the cockpit. Other places could be the business class or one of the 2 jump seats in the cockpit.

The bodies that were hit by shrapnel were those of the members of team A. On the internet a few pictures the two members of team A have circulated. I will not publish these here, out of respect for the bereaved. The captain body has lost  body parts. The body of the first officer seems to be intact. However photos shows severe wounds at a leg and holes in the stomache of the first officer.

The DSB report says there were “hundreds of metal fragments” in the captain’s body; “over 120 objects (mostly metal fragments)” in the first Officer’s body; and “more than 100 objects” in the purser’s body.

 

1 Comment on Overview of MH17 body recovery, autopsy and identification process

  1. I must admit under the circumstances it all looks very respectful and cared for. I would like to express my thanks to all rescue workers of Donetsk and all pathologists anatomist who have done this difficult work. But it is not our task to give compliments. We must control the process on methodological shortcomings.

    ‘Soon after the crash happened the local emergency authority Ukrainian State Emergency Services (SES) started recovery of the bodies.’

    Bodies were taken to roads and covered in toxic formaldehyde to delay the decomposition of the bodies in the summer heat.

    ’37 bodies were found near the location where the cockpit and part of the business class was found (village of Rozsypne).’

    http://tinyurl.com/jt42kjx
    http://tinyurl.com/hqlhqg2

    ‘These bodies were transported to the Kalininskiy mortuary of Donetsk. This happened at July 17 and 18. Likely the bodies of the cockpit crew and purser who were in the cockpit were part of those 37.’

    The 37 victims from Rozsypne got a very special treatment in the Kalininskiy mortuary by taking ribs for identification. To me this looks a bit ridiculous, but it’s not my profession.

    And after treating 11 bodies the Dutch noticed there were 298 bodies in total to take off ribs and they apparently decided this was too much work what had to be completed in the Netherlands:

    ‘At July 18 the identification of the 37 bodies brought to the Kalininskiy mortuary started. A section of rib was removed from 11 bodies as part of the identification process. This is a common local working procedure. The Dutch decided to stop the id process and perform identification in the Netherlands.’

    So, this must have been a local Ukrainian working procedure. Were it separatists from Donetsk? We have no information. Who in the world would start taking off ribs from 298 people in Donetsk? And why they started with the crew? What was their interest? We must conclude someone only wanted to commit section on crew members.

    ‘Likely the bodies of the cockpit crew and purser who were in the cockpit were part of those 37.’

    The still unknown body of captain A with the later found bowtie was in the group of 37 bodies. This because it was the cockpit. That must be the real reason why they transported the bodies of the cockpit in the first place. They possibly wanted to identify and mark the pilot on the left seat. Why?

    The captain of team A was one of 11 persons from 37 bodies from whom ‘A section of rib was removed as part of the identification process.’ That’s a remarkable: 11/298=.03. So this approach hit the only two bow ties found in the victims. Is this coincidence?

    But now the bodies of the captain of team A and other crew members are contaminated in Kalininskiy mortuary. And no foreign pathologists anatomist was reported working there:

    ‘From July 17 till July 21, 282 bodies were recovered and 87 body parts. Besides the local emergency team of SES, also Dutch and Australian teams searched for bodies.’

    This means no conclusion from these bodies can be trusted anymore by judges. This ruins the DSB report completely. And this information comes not from the DSB-report, but from Dutch RTL.

    I have no information about international teams sending the 37 bodies to Kalininskiy mortuary. So here responsibilities diverge which ruined the DSB set up for 9N314M.

    For the contamination of the bodies of the crew it does not matter who was in charge in Kalininskiy mortuary: separatists or the Ukrainian government.

    ‘At July 21 around 18:00 the train with bodies leaves Torez with destination Kharkiv. Malaysian police officers and Dutch people are on board the train. Kharkiv was controlled by Ukraine.’

    ‘Ukraine government spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Kharkiv was ready to receive the bodies. “We have everything in Kharkiv, experts from international organisations and from Ukraine,” he said. “They have all the facilities ready for all the forensic investigation and examination. “If the train is dispatched and arrives we are prepared to receive it.” (source)’

    Or course, the 11 bodies from which a rib was removed were marked. So the Ukrainian authorities in Kharkiv easily identified the bodies of the crew. Were they really of great help?

    ‘The train arrived in a Malyshev tank factory ! The factory is owned by Ukraine’s state arms industry, UkrOboronProm. The preliminary disaster victim identification (DVI) work on the remains is started here by INTERPOL’s Incident Response Team (IRT). The 10-strong IRT is currently comprised of three Dutch DVI specialists, one of whom is the IRT leader, four INTERPOL officials, a Brazilian forensics expert and current chair of the INTERPOL DVI Steering Group and representatives from Europol and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). (source)’

    The preliminary disaster victim identification (DVI) started their work in a weapon factory of Ukraine. How macabre it can be. I don’t get closure about the remark of Andriy Lysenko. Were Ukrainians somehow involved into the identification process or not? Did Ukraine deliver workers and nurses who possibly identified the crew members? And I miss the identity of the four INTERPOL officials. Were they Ukrainians?

    ‘In Kharkiv all bodies arrived packed in body bags. All bodies were scanned in an X-ray machine to make sure there were no bombs in the body bag. The body bags in which the victims’ remains had been packed by the local SES were not opened before they were airlifted to the Netherlands. (source). However this reads different.’

    The Ukrainian government was afraid separatists put bombs into the body bags. That is a reasonable fear.

    What tells us DSB?

    DSB main report:

    [Page 88 from 279:

    Tests and research

    During the examination of the wreckage parts at Gilze-Rijen Air Force Base and the forensic examinations in Hilversum fragments were safeguarded and further examined by the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI). This work is described in the following paragraphs.

    2 .16 .1
    Forensic examination

    In the course of the investigation, hundreds of fragments were found in the wreckage of the aeroplane, the remains of the crew members and passengers. Some of the fragments were found to be aeroplane parts, some were identified as personal belongings and other fragments originated from the ground.
    A distinct group was identified as small pieces of metal that were suspected to be high-energy objects, or parts of them. These fragments were extracted from the Captain from Team A, the First Officer from Team A, the Purser, who was present in the cockpit at the time of the crash, and from the cockpit wreckage (Figure 37). These fragments were found to be ferrous

    http://tinyurl.com/hcvjg6g

    Page 89 of 279
    Figure 37:
    Four distinctly shaped fragments. Top left: cockpit. Top right: Captain’s body. Bottom left: Purser’s body. Bottom right: First Officer’s body. (Source: NFI). Scale is in millimetres.

    Further forensic examinations were conducted on a number of these fragments. The selection was based on size, shape, mass and ferrous properties. In total 72 fragments were selected for further examination. Fifteen of these 72 fragments were found in the remains of the three crew members, one was found in the body of a passenger. The remaining 56 foreign fragments were recovered from the wreckage.]

    We have to conclude all fragments related to bowties are found in the contaminated group of 37 individuals, earlier ‘treated’ in Kalininskiy mortuary. And they were easily identified in Kharkiv. Though I would not trust the separatists or the Ukrainians, I also have no reason to trust the Dutch NFI. We trust nobody, only facts from which JIT has reports, though we already know they are contaminated by the facts.

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