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First MH17 victims arrive in the Netherlands

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The first Dutch victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 were repatriated Wednesday at Eindhoven airbase in a touching ceremony attended by next of kin and dignitaries just six days after the horrific crash which claimed the lives of 298 people on a flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur. Two planes carrying the remains of 40 people landed at the airbase exactly five minutes after church bells echoed in the air, marking the arrival.

The remains will be transferred to a military barracks in Hilversum—a town which lost three entire families after the crash—where forensic experts will identify the remains. “The immediate next step will be to inform the next of kin ... No one else ... This may happen rapidly, but I have to caution you that it could also take weeks or even months,” said Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder [CVR] from MH17 was examined by a team of international of investigators for the first time Wednesday led by Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Board [AAIB], a statement said. Despite being damaged, the memory module was intact and contained valid data from the flight. “Furthermore, no evidence or indications of manipulation of the CVR was found,” a statement said.

Investigators will further analyze the extracted data from the device at AAIB headquarters in Farnborough in the coming days and weeks. On Wednesday, investigators will begin their investigation of the Flight Data Recorder to determine whether it contains valid data or was damaged during the transfer from rebel hands to a Malaysian delegation on Monday.

The commonly-known “black boxes” record several aircraft parameters like thrust, airspeed and altitude and contained digital memory which recorded about 100 different sensors each second in a 25-hour period.

The Dutch Safety Board said Wednesday that two independent investigations have been launched in addition to the MH17 probe. Investigators will explore the Malaysia Airlines decision-making process regarding flight routes and the availability of passenger lists. INTERPOL is also deploying a disaster victim identification team to the Netherlands to offer assistance to international investigators, the organization said Wednesday.

Another two planes carrying additional victims of MH17 are scheduled to arrive at the Dutch airbase on Thursday.