Flight 17 victims’ bodies finally heading home

Last Updated Jul 22, 2014 8:15 AM EDT

GRABOVO, Ukraine — The train carrying the remains of most of the victims of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 reached the Ukrainian government-controlled city of Kharkiv on Tuesday, a final stop before they were to be flown back to the Netherlands where their ill-fated journey began.

Play Video


Bodies of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 victims to return home

A train carried the bodies of 282 victims to Ukrainian government-controlled Kharkiv on the way to the Netherlands. Elizabeth Palmer reports from…

Dutch officials told CBS News Tuesday morning that forensic experts from the Netherlands would work through Tuesday night, at least, to try and identify the victims in Kharkiv. They were then to be moved onto a Dutch Royal Air Force C-130 already at Kharkiv airport for a flight back to the Netherlands.

The plane wasn’t expected to depart before Wednesday morning, and the officials said another C-130 might have to be sent from the Netherlands to handle the remains. The governments of the Netherlands and Ukraine agreed that all the victims’ bodies would be sent to the Netherlands. The Dutch prime minister said Tuesday it could take weeks, or even months to identify all the remains from the wreckage.

The plan explained by the Dutch official was subject to the security situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between the government in Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels has continued.

36 Photos

Malaysia Airlines flight shot down in eastern Ukraine

Flight MH-17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur was shot down in Ukraine near the Russian border

Intense international pressure on the pro-Russian insurgents who control the crash site saw them agree Monday to let the train leave their territory carrying 282 of the victims. Sixteen more were still missing among the debris.

Play Video

CBS Evening News

MH17 victims’ bodies begin journey home

A train of refrigerated rail cars has finally left the town of Torez, Ukraine, to return the bodies to Holland for identification. Meanwhile, sec…

The rebels also handed over the Boeing 777′s “black box” data recorders to Malaysian authorities on Monday, but as CBS News’ Mark Phillips reports, that handover came with a price, and the investigation into the cause of the crash is going nowhere fast.

In exchange for receiving the black boxes from the local rebels, the MalaysNEWS.GNOM.ES had to offer a diplomatic sacrifice; they acknowledged the self-proclaimed leader of the self-proclaimed, break-a-way “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic,” Alexander Borodai, and referred to him as “excellency.”

No country has officially recognized his position, or his “republic” — not even Russia.

A pro-Russia separatist shows members of the media a “black box” from Malaysia Airlines flight 17, before handing it over to Malaysian representatives during a press conference in Donetsk, July 22, 2014.


Col. Mohammed Sakri, one of the Malaysian investigators who took possession of the black boxes, said they were “intact, even though a little bit damaged.”

He said the first priority for his team was to identify and repatriate the victims’ bodies, the second was to get the black boxes into the hands of investigators and lastly, to begin sifting through the 42-square-mile crash site to search for solid evidence of what brought the jetliner carrying 298 people down in the war zone of eastern Ukraine.

A Dutch investigator who arrived Monday to take charge of the bodies on the train was also the first foreign expert to visit the crash site, but he was only able to do so briefly.

The black boxes found in the farmland and small towns that dot the crash area southeast of rebel-held Donetsk — if their data is still intact — may provide some evidence of what brought this plane down, but it will take a painstaking raking-through of the debris by an international team of crash specialists to find whatever evidence may still exist.

Play Video

CBS Evening News

MH17 aftermath: What’s next for Putin?

It remains to be seen how Russia is going to deal with the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy. Clarissa Ward reports Putin’s strategy to …

Play Video


Obama on rebels impeding Malaysia Airlines probe: “What are they trying to hide?”

President Obama offered a stern warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he must convince separatists in eastern Ukraine to allow interna…

As Phillips reports, it’s the local rebel militias themselves, who the U.S. government and most of the international community accuse of shooting the plane down with a “Buk” SA-11 surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia, who are in control of the sprawling crash site.

President Obama said bluntly on Monday that the rebels continue to “impede” the investigation, and asked rhetorically, “what are they trying to hide?

Finally though, Phillips reported Tuesday that the first team of actual aviation specialists, a team of three experts from Malaysia Airlines accompanied by European observers, had begun carefully surveying the field of charred and tangled wreckage — the world’s largest crime scene. Phillips saw the team taking notes and photos of the debris, and said they looked visibly shocked as they took it all in.

Compounding the frustration of victims and the international community over the hurdles which slowed the investigation’s inception, the evidence around the crash site has not gone untouched. Phillips said he had personally seen local workers sifting through personal papers and belongings.

Perhaps they were doing so in a crude effort to identify the victims, but regardless, the site has been severely compromised.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Israel finds Hamas are no longer amateur fighters

STORY HIGHLIGHTS CNN’s Ben Wedeman says Hamas is a stronger force this time It has adopted commando-like tactics, he says There was cheering at reports of an Israeli solider captured U.S. has little to show for a year of trying to forge peace, he says Gaza City (CNN) — Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza, which it says is intended to destroy Palestinian militants’ tunnels and stop rocket fire into Gaza, has entered its fifth day with the death toll mounting on both sides and U.S. Continue reading

Girl Attacked in ‘Slender Man’ Case Receives Anonymous Purple Heart

First she survived being stabbed 19 times. Police say it was by her 12-year-old friends. The suspects allegedly told police they did it to please an online fictional character named “Slender Man.” Then she crawled to safety from the woods near Waukesha, Wisconsin. Continue reading

Ukraine says Russian officer pushed the button to shoot down MH17

STORY HIGHLIGHTS NEW: It could take months to identify some remains, Dutch Prime Minister says Ukrainian official: A “Russian-trained” officer “pushed that button deliberately” A train carrying victims’ bodies has reached a facility Rebels hand over the “black boxes” from Flight 17 to Malaysian officials Send iReport your photos and videos. Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) — As bodies from Thursday’s air disaster reached a facility Tuesday in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the Ukrainian government ratcheted up its accusations against Moscow, saying a Russian officer shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Vitaly Nayda, Ukraine’s director of informational security, made the accusation in an interview with CNN. Continue reading

Egypt raises possibility of restarting peace talks as Israeli soldier reported missing

July 22, 2014: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in Cairo Continue reading

China welcomes U.N. resolution on MH17, urges Ukraine ceasefire

SHANGHAI (NEWS.GNOM.ES) – Beijing welcomes a recent U.N. resolution on downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 demanding that those responsible be held to account, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, and called for a ceasefire in Ukraine. On its website, the foreign ministry said Wang made the comments in Caracas on Monday while accompanying Chinese President Xi Jinping on a Latin American tour Continue reading

Ortega calls attack on supporters in Nicaragua a "massacre"

Managua (AFP) – President Daniel Ortega on Monday slammed as a “massacre” an attack on his political supporters that killed five people and left 28 more hurt. Continue reading

Friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect found guilty

A pal of the Boston Marathon bomber was convicted Monday of helping another college friend get rid of the terror suspect’s fireworks-filled backpack three days after the attack. Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, covered his face while his mother broke into tears when the guilty verdict for obstruction of justice and conspiracy was announced in federal court. Continue reading

Four emergency workers suspended in NYC chokehold death

Esaw Garner, wife of Eric Garner, breaks down in the arms of Rev. Herbert Daughtry, center, and Rev. Continue reading

Malaysia Airlines Black Boxes Handed Over By Ukraine Rebels To Experts

DONETSK, Ukraine, July 22 (NEWS.GNOM.ES) – A senior separatist leader, Aleksander Borodai, handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts in the city of Donetsk in the early hours of Tuesday. “Here they are, the black boxes,” Borodai told a room packed with journalists at the headquarters of his self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic as an armed rebel placed the boxes on a desk Continue reading