International Collaboration Welcomed In Search For Answers In MH17 Tragedy

Global Expertise Holds Key To Comprehensive Investigation, Aviation Lawyers Warn


Lawyers representing victims and the families of those killed in aviation incidents across the globe have described the international collaboration on investigations into the Malaysia Airlines MH17 tragedy as a positive sign that the Ukraine will comply with both the UN Security Council’s resolution on the issue and the provisions of the Chicago Convention.

Following confirmation that Dutch authorities are leading the investigations, with British experts involved in reviewing the “black-box” flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the aircraft, Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team has said such activity is a positive step forward.

Expert Opinion
This incident has shocked the world. Our thoughts are with the families of the passengers and crew who have endured unthinkable suffering following this terrible tragedy.

"While the Ukraine authorities are technically responsible for investigating this incident, the involvement of a range of expertise from other nations – including the UK and Dutch Air Accident Investigation Branches – is welcomed.

"In terms of British involvement, the information held by black-box equipment is absolutely vital for getting a full picture of the flight and understanding the events which led to this disaster. The data should identify whether any mechanical fault or other issues with the plane or its crew played a part.

"Of particular concern are reports that the flight’s route may have been altered from its original flight path which did not fly over this specific area. It is hoped that the black-box equipment will also clarify whether this occurred or not.

"The investigation into the incident is governed by Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention which provides that the state where the accident occurs is responsible for protecting the wreckage, which is vital in order to ensure a comprehensive investigation can be undertaken.

"The importance of preserving evidence at the crash site cannot be overstated. We have been involved in previous cases where vital evidence has been lost which has made our job and that of the accident investigators much more difficult. As an example, Kenya Airways flight KQ507 crashed in Cameroon in May 2007. Wreckage was looted and lost, significantly impacting on the official accident investigation as a result. Given the difficulties in the Ukraine with the pro-Russian separatists at the crash site, it is vital that everything possible is done to prevent this happening further in the MH17 case."
Jim Morris, Partner

As well as having extensive experience in representing the families of those killed in international aviation disasters, the leading legal  team also has specialist expertise in representing the victims of civilian air accidents that occur in war and conflict zones or as a result of terrorism. 

In addition to acting for relatives of those killed in the Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks, Irwin Mitchell also acted for families who lost loved ones in the Lockerbie disaster. The team currently acts for dozens of Afghan, UK and US families of passengers killed when a civilian flight operated by Pamir Airways came down in Afghanistan in 2010

On the crash occurring close to an area of conflict, Jim Morris added that such incidents are not uncommon but can be fraught with difficulty.

Expert Opinion
Our work on the Pamir Airways tragedy in Afghanistan involved the loss of 44 lives when a civilian aircraft on a scheduled flight crashed in a war zone, creating significant difficulties for the accident investigation. In addition, the Afghan authorities required specialist expertise so they were heavily reliant on international support, particularly from US accident investigation experts.

"Due to the lack of any information about the progress of the official investigation, we conducted our own independent investigation and liaised with UK, US and Afghan politicians to procure some form of accident report and put pressure on the entities responsible. This complicated and political process eventually resulted in an accident report. We are now pursuing our clients’ claims for damages through the courts in the United States against the US company that was providing air traffic control services along with the manufacturer of the aircraft ground proximity warning system."
Jim Morris, Partner
Expert Opinion
The investigation into the MH17 disaster remains at an early stage. There are many questions still to be answered before the families involved understand exactly what caused the tragic loss of their loved ones. It is good to see that a proper investigation now seems to be underway band we hope that an early interim report will be published which will shed some light on what happened and establish the key facts once and for all.

"The families of those passengers and crew who perished, as well as many in the wider international community, will want all those individuals who played a part in causing this tragedy brought to account and for justice to be done."
Clive Garner, Partner