40 bod­ies from jet solemnly re­turned to Dutch soil

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

EIND­HOVEN, Nether­lands (AP) — Vic­tims of the Malaysian jet­liner shot down over Ukraine re­turned at last Wed­nes­day to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gen­tly car­ried to 40 iden­ti­cal hearses, flags at half-staff flap­ping in the wind.

The care­fully chore­ographed, nearly silent cer­e­mony con­trasted sharply with the boom of shells and shat­tered glass in eastern Ukraine as pro-Rus­sian rebels fought to hang onto ter­ri­tory and shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets. The bold new at­tack showed the sep­a­ratists are not shy­ing away from shoot­ing at the skies de­spite in­ter­na­tional out­rage and grief at the down­ing of Malaysia Air­lines Flight 17.

Even though they are still uniden­ti­fied, the corpses that ar­rived on two mil­i­tary trans­port planes in Eind­hoven were em­braced by a na­tion un­moored by the loss of so many peo­ple caught in some­one else’s far­away war.

Boys go­ing to visit their grand­par­ents, a flight at­ten­dant hur­ry­ing to get home, a bouncer head­ing to see his sweet­heart were among the 298 vic­tims of the jet­liner that was blown out of the sky on July 17, in­ten­si­fy­ing anger at the sep­a­ratists sus­pected of bring­ing it down with a sur­face-to-air mis­sile.

Nearly a week later, in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tors still don’t have un­fet­tered ac­cess to the crash site, some re­mains have yet to be re­cov­ered, and armed men roam the re­gion, de­fy­ing their govern­ment.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors in a lab in south­ern Eng­land be­gan study­ing the plane’s “black boxes” Wed­nes­day in hopes of learn­ing about the Boe­ing 777’s fi­nal min­utes. The Dutch Safety Board, which has taken con­trol of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said the cock­pit voice recorder suf­fered dam­age but showed no sign of ma­nip­u­la­tion, and its record­ings were in­tact. Spe­cial­ists will start study­ing the flight data recorder Thurs­day.

Fam­i­lies of pas­sen­gers moved to a new stage of grief as the bod­ies be­gan ar­riv­ing in the Nether­lands, the coun­try that bore the heav­i­est death toll.

The fam­i­lies had spent days ag­o­niz­ing in wait while their loved ones’ re­mains lay in swel­ter­ing fields in eastern Ukraine be­fore be­ing grad­u­ally shifted by truck, train and plane.

“If I have to wait five months for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, I can do it,” said Si­lene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girl­friend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash. “Wait­ing while the bod­ies were in the field and in the train was a night­mare.”

On a day of na­tional mourn­ing, flags flew at half-staff on Dutch govern­ment build­ings and fam­ily homes around this na­tion of 17 mil­lion.

Church bells rang out around the coun­try as the Dutch and Aus­tralian mil­i­tary trans­port planes tax­ied to a stand­still. King Willem-Alexan­der clasped the hand of his wife, Queen Max­ima, as the cou­ple grimly watched uni­formed pall­bear­ers carry the coffins slowly from the planes to a fleet of wait­ing hearses.

Al­most the only sound was of boots march­ing across the ground and flags flap­ping in the wind.

AP Photo/Phil Ni­jhuis

Pall­bear­ers carry a cof­fin to­wards a hearse dur­ing a cer­e­mony to mark the re­turn of the first bod­ies, of pas­sen­gers and crew killed in the down­ing of Malaysia Air­lines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eind­hoven mil­i­tary air base, Nether­lands, Wed­nes­day, July 23, 2014. Af­ter be­ing re­moved from the planes, the bod­ies were taken in a con­voy of hearses to a mil­i­tary bar­racks in the cen­tral city of Hil­ver­sum, where foren­sic ex­perts will be­gin the painstak­ing task of iden­ti­fy­ing the bod­ies and re­turn­ing them to their loved ones.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.