The investigation team looking into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in July plans to return to the crash site when the security situation in the country improves. Investigators had suspended their search efforts in early August when fighting between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian rebels escalated.
The Dutch Safety Board, an organization based in the Hague that investigates aviation accidents and other crashes, is leading the investigation. It said in a statement Wednesday that investigators will revisit the crash site once the area is “safe and stable.”
Other civil aviation authorities, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, are also part of the team.
Access to the crash site has been limited for investigators, due to the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military. As a result, the probe has focused on data from the black boxes, satellite images and information from air-traffic controllers and radar.
More than 200 coffins with victims' remains were returned to the Netherlands in July, but body parts and other debris are still in the area where the plane crashed, and cannot be recovered while the site is off-limits.
The Dutch Safety Board said in a statement on Aug. 11 that it would release an initial report on the team’s findings “in a few weeks.” In addition to the investigation of the flight itself, the DSB said it would assess the decision-making process that went into determining flight routes and risk assessments in choosing to fly over East Ukraine.
The Boeing 777 airliner was bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down while flying at 33,000 feet over the Donetsk region in Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people aboard. American and Ukrainian officials believe that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the shooting, but Moscow denies any involvement.
Instead, Russia has accused Ukrainian air-traffic control officers of routing the doomed jet over the conflict zone -- and of firing the missile that downed the plane.