Grief-stricken relatives of the victims killed when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky over Ukraine with a missile have reported calling their family members’ phones to find them not only working, but answered by strangers.
Friends and family of the deceased in the Netherlands told De Telegraaf they were horrified to dial their loved one’s phones and instead of hearing the voicemail greeting, hearing “Eastern European-sounding voices” on the other end of the line, according to the Independent. This update comes after days of reports that the crash site, which has been under the control of Kremlin-backed rebel forces, have rummaged through the wreckage to steal wallets, jewelry and other valuables that once belonged to the 298 people killed in the tragedy.
Crash debris has been scattered over a 50-square-kilometer area that still has not been properly cordoned off even as international investigators attempt to piece together exactly what happened last Thursday. Multiple images have surfaced of armed gunmen appearing to look through the site for valuables, while other reports have indicated that the area is left entirely open to bandits and gawkers when night falls. International phone companies, citing the uncertain situation, have allowed customers to cancel relatives’ phone plans without the usual necessary proof of death.
The crash site is located near the border of Lugansk and Donetsk, an area of Ukrainian farmland firmly under the control of pro-Russian rebels. More bodies and body parts were being discovered Tuesday even as officials moved between 200 and 282 bodies to Kharkiv on refrigerated trains. Also in dispute is exactly what the separatists had done to the plane while the evidence was in their sole possession, with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) spokesman telling Bloomberg that the integrity of the site has clearly been compromised.
“Major pieces, I’m looking at the tailfin … they do look different than when we first saw them, in that they have been cut into,” he said Wednesday. “One main cone section has been almost split in half. The time has come for professionals to be here and do the analysis.”