Questions linger, as the train with Boeing crash victims’ bodies is set to depart.
The train carrying the bodies of Boeing air crash victims, pictured on July 20, is ready to depart from the railway station in Torez, east of Donetsk. It’s final destination, meanwhile, remains unclear. © Christopher J. Miller
TOREZ, Ukraine – After more than two days exposed to the elements in the fields where they met their death, the corpses of the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 passengers have been bagged and loaded into three refrigerated train cars for safe keeping.
But their destination is unknown.
At the Torez train station, 10 miles south of the crash site, 192 of victims will sit until “experts1” arrive to inspect them and decide where they will go, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic told journalists on July 20.
As of July 20, Ukraine’s emergency service workers uncovered 219 bodies and from the massive crash site over the past three days, according to deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groisman speaking in Kyiv. Meanwhile, 27 of those bodies and additional 20 body fragments, are still at the crash site, as authorities are waiting for additional refrigiration equipment to arrive to a nearby railway station in Torez.
Groisman, at the same time, fears that the rebels might be tempering with the bodies, making the proper investigation even more complicated.
“You know that 36 or 38 bodies were taken away by terrorists and then returned … We do not know exactly what they did with the bodies,” he said.
When journalists from Time and the BBC went to the morgue in Donetsk to investigate this on July 20, they were detained by Russia-backed rebels and taken to the local security services building. They were questioned and held for more than two hours before being released.
Just after noon in Torez, observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission inspected the three refrigerated train cars holding the victim’s corpses.
“The special monitoring mission in its third day dealing with the incident has now monitored the location where bodies are being refrigerated in three wagons,” said Alexander Hug, the deputy chief of the mission.
“We have not been able to count them as that would be too difficult in this situation,” Hug added.
But the mutilated and decaying bodies were definitely inside, as evidenced by the pungent odor leaking from the unsealed wagon doors.
Natalya Koruzhaya, a train dispatcher, said she had not been told where the train would go after leaving Torez. But a colleague said the train could go north to Debaltseve, or east to Ilovaisk from Torez.
Ukrainian authorities would like to see the bodies transported to Kharkiv where they can be handled by some of the country’s top forensic specialists.
A crisis center has been set up there for international experts, and hotel accommodate enough for 400 has been arranged for the victims’ families.
Kyiv Post editor Christopher J. Miller and Kyiv Post staff writer Iana Koretska can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
A freight wagon carrying the remains of MH17 victims at Torez stationMost of the recovered bodies are thought to have been put in refrigerated rail wagonsA crane could be seen at the crash site lifting large pieces of wreckageThe UN Security Council has called for a full and independent international investigation into the crash