EINDHOVEN, Netherlands — Two military transport planes carrying 40 coffins bearing victims of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 landed Wednesday in the southern city of Eindhoven, and pro-Russian rebels shot down two fighter jets in Ukraine's restive east as fighting flared in the region.
Six days after the Boeing 777 was shot down over the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, the first bodies finally arrived in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest toll in the crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew.
A Dutch Hercules C-130 that Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said is carrying 16 coffins was closely followed by an Australian C-17 Globemaster plane carrying 24 coffins.
British investigators began work on a pair of "black boxes" to retrieve data on the flight's last minutes, while Dutch officials said they have taken charge of the stalled investigation of the airline disaster and pleaded for unhindered access to the wreckage.
The two military transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, departed Ukraine at midday, and landed at Eindhoven Air Base where the flights were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other government officials. Hundreds of relatives were also there, according to government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking. He said the planes carried 40 coffins in all.
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