Editorial: Adding to the grief

21:32, Jul 20 2014

It seems there is to be no dignity in death for the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The loss of the civilian aircraft, reportedly shot down over Ukraine by a surface to air missile, is horrific enough. That ordinary, everyday people from around the world, with no connections to the conflict happening beneath their flight path, should die in such a way is desperately unnecessary and unfair.

But now it seems that is just going to mark the beginning of the nightmare that the families of all 298 people on board are now going to be dealing with. The situation on the ground makes a mockery of everything the world knows about dealing with such a scene, and about identifying and retrieving bodies and body parts.

The tenor of reports coming from the Ukraine via international media is one of horror and dismay. Journalists are attempting to document what is happening, trying to get answers about who is in charge, where the deceased are being taken.

Information is piecemeal, contradictory. The plane's wreckage lies scattered over an area under the control of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic - pro-Russian separatists that Ukraine claims are under the influence of, and are armed and supported by, Russia.

It is becoming dauntingly clear that of the many agendas at play here, ensuring an independent investigation into the disaster and a careful and respectful body recovery and identification process, is one that is struggling to find purchase.


Journalists are reporting that bodies have remained at the scene in humid conditions for two days; they say there have been reports of bodies being looted, and loaded on to unrefrigerated trucks to be taken who knows where.

There are reportedly 900 armed separatists at the scene. Meanwhile, crash investigation and emergency response experts gathered in Kiev from the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Switzerland have not been given permission to access the crash site.

Grieving relatives will be making their way to Ukraine now. Who knows what lies in store for them. Being able to visit the scene where their loved ones came to rest is by no means a given, nor is access to their loved one's remains.

It seems all too certain that the experiences that lie in store are likely to add to their grief, rather than provide any closure. For the families of yet another plane-full of people to be in that situation is beyond belief.

The Timaru Herald