| MONTREAL, July 20
MONTREAL, July 20 Investigators from the U.N.
aviation agency have arrived in Ukraine to help probe the crash
of a Malaysian airliner but cannot reach the site because of
safety concerns, a senior agency source said on Sunday.
The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO) is taking part in the effort to determine what happened
to the airliner, which was shot down by a missile on Thursday
over eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russian rebels in the area and Ukrainian authorities
blame each other for the disaster, in which 298 people died.
A senior ICAO official told Reuters that safety concerns
meant the two investigators who were in Ukraine could not reach
the crash site or examine the plane's flight recorders.
"Nobody has been allowed to have access to the site for that
purpose," said the official, who was not authorized to speak to
"Until safe passage for them is assured we don't send people
into that kind of situation."
The official said the four-person team would be free from
the political influence of the U.N. agency's 191 member states.
It is unusual for ICAO to take a direct role in an
investigation, and the team's assignment comes in response to a
request from Ukraine's government.
The head of Emirates, one of the world's largest airlines,
on Sunday called for an international meeting of carriers to see
what changes needed to be made in the way the industry tackles
In the wake of the crash, ICAO denied it had either opened
or closed the route the Malaysian plane took over eastern
Ukraine when it was shut down.
Malaysian officials said ICAO had approved the route - a
responsibility the agency does not have. ICAO also said "it is
not our job" to warn carriers about the dangers of missiles.
Kenneth Quinn, a partner at the Pillsbury law firm in
Washington and a former chief counsel at the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration, said the Ukrainian-led probe could have
a tough task given signs that evidence had been moved.
The ICAO team's main task is to secure the site and retrieve
information from the flight data recorders. It would also review
air traffic control tapes, study radar tracking, obtain
satellite imagery, and set up forensic and specialist teams,
Quinn said in an email.
"Given the apparent circumstances, metallurgy will be
particularly important to see missile signatures and
fragmentation of the fuselage," Quinn said.
One crucial area of the overall probe would be run by law
enforcement teams from agencies such as Interpol and the U.S.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, who would look for evidence
that could lead to a criminal prosecution, he added.
"This is a particular challenge for all investigators, as it
would appear the scene has been significantly compromised.
Security of course is also a problem since the plane went down
in rebel-controlled areas," he said.
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris; Writing by David
Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)