NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As night fell on Ukraine Friday, the wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 still sat in miles of open fields, and the bodies of many passengers on board still haven’t been removed.
One American with dual Dutch-American citizenship was among those killed on the plane, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
Quinn Schansman, 19, was born in Fort Lee, New Jersey and was in his first year of college at the University of Amsterdam, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
His grandfather, who is from Amsterdam and on vacation, spoke from a relative’s home in southern New Jersey on Friday.
“As a grandparent you just hope that none of the children or the grandchildren will go before you, and now it has happened,” Ronald Schansman said.
Schansman was studying business and on his way to meet family members for a vacation in Indonesia when he boarded the doomed flight, Champion reported.
On Friday, President Barack Obama said the “eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine” and called for a credible investigation into the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane, saying “we are going to make sure that the truth is out.”
In remarks from the White House, Obama said evidence so far indicates that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
In all, the attack Thursday afternoon killed 298 people from nearly a dozen nations.
Passengers on the plane also included a large contingent of world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists headed to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. News of their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community.
“This was a global tragedy,” Obama said. “An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries, so there has to be a credible, international investigation into what happened.”
He noted it wasn’t the first time the separatists had shot down planes in the region, adding that a “steady flow of support from Russia” had included heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.
He called for an immediate cease-fire to allow for a full investigation.
“Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants — who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine,” Obama said. “Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Friday all signs point to Russia for supplying and training the separatists, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“The missiles are highly sophisticated,” the New York Democrat said. “You don’t just buy an SA-11 missile at a store.
“It looks like President Putin has blood on his hands.”
Officials from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to Ukraine to help determine what happened, Obama said.
He warned that evidence must not be tampered with as a United Nations-backed investigation goes forward, and he said, “We will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word” in allowing access to the crash.
“This should snap everybody’s heads to attention,” Obama said.
UN Security Council Wants Probe Of Crash
Earlier Friday, the U.N. Security Council in New York approved a statement calling for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” of the downed flight.
The council called for an investigation “in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability.”
It stressed the need for “immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident.”
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power also told the Council on Friday the missile was likely fired from a rebel-held area near the Russian border.
Power made waves Friday after she compared the scale of the Malaysia Airlines crash’s toll on the Netherlands to that of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N., Yuriy Sergeyev, told the Council that communications and intercepts, photos and videos indicate that the rebels have at least two SA-11 missile systems.
Sergeyev said that immediately after the crash, a rebel military leader had boasted on social media of shooting down what he thought was a Ukrainian jet.
He added that detained rebels have told Ukraine that they also have a Buk missile system from Russia.
The Ukraine government in Kiev, the separatist pro-Russia rebels they are fighting in the east and the Russia government that Ukraine accuses of supporting the rebels all deny shooting the passenger plane down. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.
By midday, 181 bodies had been located, according to emergency workers in contact with officials in Kiev. Malaysia Airlines said the passengers included 189 Dutch, 29 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one person each from Canada and New Zealand.
Ukraine has called for an international probe to determine who attacked the plane and the United States has offered to help. But access to the site remained difficult and dangerous. The road from Donetsk, the largest city in the region, to the crash site was marked by five rebel checkpoints Friday, with document checks at each.
Separatist rebels who control the crash site say they have recovered most of its black boxes and were considering what to do with them. Their statement had profound implications for the integrity of the plane crash investigation.
Searchers Finding Remains, Belongings
The crash site was spread out over fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine and fighting apparently still continued nearby. In the distance, the thud of Grad missile launchers being fired could be heard Friday morning.
European monitors say they have had very little access to the crash site, but were horrified by what they saw, CBS 2’s Brennan reported.
“What we observed are bodies starting to decompose in the hot sun,” said OSCE spokesaman Michael Bociurkin. “The crash area is very big and we were given only a small area to monitor, and we were greeted with hostility.”
Among the debris were watches and smashed mobile phones, charred boarding passes and passports. An “I (heart) Amsterdam” T-shirt and a guidebook to Bali hinted at holiday plans.
Large chunks of the Boeing 777 that bore the airline’s red, white and blue markings lay strewn over one field. The cockpit and one turbine lay a half-mile apart, and residents said the tail landed another six miles away.
Nataliya Bystro, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s emergency services, said rebel militiamen were interfering with the recovery operation.
Separatist rebels who control the crash site issued conflicting reports Friday about whether they had found the plane’s black boxes or not.
Yet earlier Friday, an aide to the military leader of Borodai’s group said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices.
Since planes usually have two black boxes, one for recording flight data and the other for recording cockpit voices, it was not clear what the number 12 referred to.
The area has seen heavy fighting between government troops and pro-Russia separatists, and rebels had bragged about shooting down two Ukrainian military jets in the region just a day earlier.
Putin Urges Ukraine Cease-Fire
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a cease-fire Friday in eastern Ukraine and urged the two sides to hold peace talks as soon as possible.
A day earlier, Putin had blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying the government in Kiev was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he did not accuse Ukraine of shooting the plane down and did not address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels such a powerful missile.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk described the downing as an “international crime” whose perpetrators would have to be punished in an international tribunal.
“Yesterday’s terrible tragedy will change our lives. The Russians have done it now,” he was cited as saying by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
When asked by CBS News’ Charlie Rose about the potential Russian involvement in the downing of Flight 17, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said if there is evidence linking Russia to the crash, Europe must take action.
“Do more in concert with us to support the Ukrainians, to put Putin on notice that he has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by,” she said.
An angry Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott demanded an independent inquiry into the downing.
“The initial response of the Russian ambassador was to blame Ukraine for this and I have to say that is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory,” he said. “It’s very important that we don’t allow Russia to prevent an absolutely comprehensive investigation so that we can find out exactly what happened here.”
“This is not an accident, it’s a crime,” he added.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed Kiev’s accusations that Moscow could be behind the attack.
“Regarding those claims from Kiev that we allegedly did it ourselves: I have not heard a truthful statement from Kiev for months,” he told the Rossiya 24 television channel.
Questions Arise Over Safety Of Airspace
Kenneth Quinn of the Flight Safety Foundation also called for an international coalition of countries to lead the investigation. The United States has offered to help.
Malaysia’s prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lay repeatedly insisted Friday that the airline’s path was an internationally approved route and denied accusations that Malaysia Airlines was trying to save fuel and money by taking a more direct flight path across Ukraine.
“I want to stress that this route is an approved path that is used by many airlines including 15 Asia Pacific airlines. We have not been informed that the path cannot be used,” he said
Aviation authorities in several countries, including the FAA in the United States, had issued warnings not to fly over parts of Ukraine prior to Thursday’s crash. Within hours of the crash, several airlines announced they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace.
On Friday, Ukraine’s state aviation service closed the airspace over two regions currently gripped by fighting, Donetsk and Luhansk, and Russian aviation regulators said Russian airlines have suspended all transit flights over Ukraine.
Ukraine, Separatist Pro-Russia Rebels & Russia Deny Downing Plane
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at about 33,000 feet when it was hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 72,000 feet. He said only that his information was based on “intelligence.”
Ukraine’s security services produced what they said were two intercepted telephone conversations that showed rebels were responsible.
In the first call, the security services said, rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane.
In the second, two rebel fighters, one at the crash scene, say the rocket attack was carried out by insurgents about 15 miles north of the site.
Neither recording could be independently verified.
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Donetsk rebel spokesman Sergey Kavtaradze as denying that the intercepted phone conversations were genuine.
At the United Nations, Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told the AP that Russia gave the separatists a sophisticated missile system and thus Moscow bears responsibility, along with the rebels.
Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems, also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country’s armed forces didn’t shoot at any airborne targets.
The tragedy occurred on the 18th anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800 over Long Island on July 17, 1996. That crash claimed the lives of all 230 people on board.
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