MH17: Dutch authority takes over as lead investigator

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Dutch investigators are to assume the lead role in the inquiry into the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Under normal protocols the state of incident would normally head the investigation. MH17 came down in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.

But Ukraine’s accident investigation authority, the NBAAI, says it has prepared an agreement to “transfer” the inquiry to its counterpart in the Netherlands, the Dutch Safety Board.

Ukrainian representatives will have the right to participate, it adds.

The Dutch Safety Board confirms the handover of the investigation. Most of the 298 occupants of the Malaysian Boeing 777-200 were Dutch nationals.

Investigators are working on collecting and analysing data from various sources, says the Dutch Safety Board, even though secure access to the crash site has yet to be ensured.

"It is not possible for the investigators to visit safely," it states. It adds that, while the crash site has been disturbed, it expects to collect sufficient information for the inquiry.

Transfer of authority, it says, will give the international inquiry team, comprising 24 investigators, "more space" to co-ordinate its activities.

Both the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders have been handed to the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Farnborough, which confirms it has received them from the Dutch authority.

The Dutch Safety Board says the analysis of the recorders is a "priority" but that this might take several weeks to complete.

In parallel with the international MH17 inquiry the authority will also carry out an investigation into related aspects, focused on decision-making on air routes as well as passenger list availability.