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MH17 recovery operation completed


Among the victims of MH17 were Newcastle United fans Liam Sweeney and John Alder

Among the victims of MH17 were Newcastle United fans Liam Sweeney and John Alder

Among the victims of MH17 were Newcastle United fans Liam Sweeney and John Alder

Work to recover wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was downed over Ukraine with the loss of 298 lives including 10 Britons, has now finished.

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which is leading the investigation into the tragedy, said the week-long operation had been wound up with the remains of the Boeing 777 eventually being taken to the Netherlands.

The crash happened on July 17 this year in an area where pro-Russian separatists operated. The plane was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

A preliminary report by the DSB in September said wreckage was "consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside".

Up until this month, the DSB had had only limited access to the crash site. But recovery work was able to begin on November 16.

The DSB said today: " With the transport from Torez to Kharkhov the recovery operation has ended. After a considerable period of planning, the actual recovery of wreckage started Sunday November 16. In the week following as much wreckage relevant for the investigation as possible was recovered.

"Despite the complex circumstances and local safety situation, the team was able to work as planned under the guidance of (European security organisation) OSCE. The team was supported by local services and the work was done in good cooperation."

The DSB went on: " Although this recovery operation has ended, there is still wreckage left at the crash site - mostly smaller pieces of wreckage with no value for the investigation. Local services will remove those pieces of wreckage from the site as was agreed by the recovery team."

The board has said that as part of the investigation it intends to reconstruct a section of the aircraft.

Despite the difficulty in accessing the site due to fighting in the area, the black box flight recorders were recovered early on and were passed to the DSB after being inspected at the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) headquarters at Farnborough in Hampshire.

In its September preliminary report, the DSB said the black box information showed the MH17 flight proceeded normally until 1.20pm local time after which all recordings "ended abruptly".

The DSB said pieces of wreckage were pierced in numerous places and that most likely there had been "an in-flight break-up".

The board added that it aimed to publish a full report within one year of the date of the crash.

The MH17 disaster followed on from the disappearance in March this year of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 237 passengers on board.

A reconstruction of a section of the MH17 aircraft by Dutch investigators would echo the work done by the AAIB which gathered wreckage from Pan Am flight 103 after it exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988 and painstakingly rebuilt part of the fuselage at Farnborough as part of its investigation.