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Who should investigate MH17 crash?

By Jim Hall and Peter Goelz
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 sits in a field at the crash site in Hrabove, Ukraine, on Tuesday, September 9. The Boeing 777 is believed to have been shot down July 17 in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 sits in a field at the crash site in Hrabove, Ukraine, on Tuesday, September 9. The Boeing 777 is believed to have been shot down July 17 in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
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Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
Malaysia Airlines jet crashes in Ukraine
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 298 people lost their lives in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine
  • Jim Hall, Peter Goelz: There must be an immediate and competent investigation
  • They say Russia and Ukraine should not conduct investigation; leave it to the Dutch
  • Hall, Goelz: International community must stand up for safe and secure global travel

Editor's note: Jim Hall is the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Peter Goelz is a former managing director at the board. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN) -- Today, we are all mourning the loss of 298 people who died in the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Ukraine and Russia have been trading blame on who is responsible for shooting down the aircraft. As more details come in, U.S. officials believe that pro-Russian rebels fired the missiles.

Whatever the political repercussions are, the international community owes it to the deceased and their families to conduct an immediate, thorough, competent and, most important, independent investigation of what exactly happened and who is responsible.

We cannot afford to have another aviation accident investigation that appears to stumble at its outset. The families of the 298 innocents on board deserve competence and justice. Most of those on board were Dutch, but there were also Australians, Indonesians, Germans, at least one American and a Malaysian crew. Some of the world's top AIDS researchers were among those killed.

Jim Hall, left, and Peter Goelz
Jim Hall, left, and Peter Goelz

Clearly, given the political tensions between Ukraine and Russia and the disputed area in which the crash occurred, these two countries should not conduct the investigation. According to Annex 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organization, multiple parties are entitled to be involved in the investigation. While our own National Transportation Safety Board will have a say, since Boeing in the United States made the aircraft, we believe that the Dutch Safety Board should be the lead investigatory body, and it should be appointed immediately.

The Dutch Safety Board was founded in 2005, is noted for its thoroughness and technical skill, and has conducted many aviation investigations. Its leader, Chairman Tjibbe Joustra, is a career politician and the national coordinator for security and counterterrorism. Given his experience in both aviation and national security, he would be an outstanding fit for the work.

First images of Malaysia Airlines debris
How MH17 will impact AIDS research
U.S.: Can't rule out Russian involvement
U.S. official: Flight MH17 shot down

It is vital that investigators get to the scene of the accident immediately. With unconfirmed reports that Ukrainian rebels are combing through the wreckage and may even have possession of the black box, security at the crash site must be established to preserve evidence and allow investigators to determine how and why this aircraft was shot down.

It is critical that investigators obtain possession of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, the "black box." As the NTSB did in the investigation of TWA 800 using black box data, a sound spectrum study can provide telling information on where on the aircraft and when the explosion occurred.

The Russians, the Ukrainians and the rebels should commit immediately to full transparency and to guaranteeing the complete safety of the investigative team. Anything short of that should bring immediate world condemnation and a denial of landing rights for flights originating in their respective countries.

This is more than just an investigation of an aviation accident. Our global economy is greatly dependent on aviation. People are able to access the farthest corners of the globe for business and family purposes with remarkable speed and unprecedented safety. If there is an ongoing threat that commercial airliners will be shot down, our global commerce will slow to a halt. In the United States alone, 97.5 million passengers flew internationally on U.S. airlines in 2013.

The United Nations is meeting today on the MH17 tragedy, and it needs to show strong leadership to ensure that a true independent investigation is immediately launched.

The world's countries must stand up for safe and secure global travel, and by demanding a transparent and unfettered international investigation, they will take the first step in bringing those responsible to justice.

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Part of complete coverage on
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
"There were many scenes that defied logic," writes OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, who was one of the first international observers to arrive at the site.
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2255 GMT (0655 HKT)
During the last four months, the people of Ukraine have been fighting for their freedom, independence and European path in a war started by Russia-backed terrorists and their accomplices.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1108 GMT (1908 HKT)
The road isn't easy -- past shelling and eerie separatist checkpoints. But where it leads is harder still.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
The mother of two brothers killed in the MH17 plane crash has spoken of her regret at not taking her youngest son's fears over the flight seriously.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
A long line of hearses, accompanied by police, carried the remains slowly toward a Dutch military base, where forensic investigators will begin the grim work of identifying them.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Seeing the images of the mangled wreckage of an aircraft after a crash is difficult for any flight attendant.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2304 GMT (0704 HKT)
The United States and its allies are angrier at Russia now over Ukraine, but will they do anything more about it -- especially Europe?
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0700 GMT (1500 HKT)
When passengers boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week, they couldn't have known they were about to fly over a battlefield.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
The horrifying crash has put the pro-Russia rebels center stage -- and raised all kinds of questions about who they are, what they want and who's in charge.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1704 GMT (0104 HKT)
Aerial photos show the scale of the crash site and help investigators to answer lingering questions.
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