HRABOVE, Ukraine (Reuters) – Four Dutch experts and local emergency services made a start on Monday recovering personal belongings from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines MH17 last summer in east Ukraine, carting away boxes of personal pos-sessions despite fighting nearby.
But the leader of the Dutch team coordinating the repatriation mis-sion said the aim was still to get a Dutch team on site to comb the crash area, despite the fighting between government troops and separatist rebels.
“The State Emergency Services managed to recover many personal belongings, nine boxes of a cubic metre each, from the crash site,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the Dutch repatriation mission, said in an interview on Dutch television.
“(There were) Jewellery, watches, credit cards, a driving licence, a passport, an iPad, photos – things that really should be with relatives,” he added. But, he conceded, a Dutch team might not be able to get to the site until spring because the cold weather makes it inaccessible.
“We want to go back to the site. If it’s not before the winter, then it’s after the winter,” he said.
The experts said they were on hand to advise the local Emergencies Ministry team combing the wreckage in the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew, a Reu-ters correspondent on the scene said.
Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch nationals and the Dutch Safe-ty Board is leading the investigation.
A short but intense exchange of artillery fire played out near the grassy fields where the team col-lected items such as books, tooth-paste, playing cards, a plastic watch and a stick of antiperspirant.