Fmr CPD chief Ruben Santiago observer at MH-17 crash site - - Columbia, South Carolina

Ruben Santiago observer at MH-17 crash site

EX-CPD interim chief Ruben Santiago EX-CPD interim chief Ruben Santiago

Columbia's former Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago says he has been to the Malaysia Airlines crash site in Ukraine.

After losing his bid to become Columbia Police Chief, Santiago began working for Lasco Shield, a private security company based in Columbia.

WIS Senior Reporter Jack Kuenzie says Santiago told him he had been in Luhansk, Ukraine for about two months. Santiago said he had been to the MH17 crash site for two days as an observer only, not to investigate or gather evidence.

Luhansk is about 60 miles from the crash scene.

Santiago has also been working with OSCE, the Organization for Co-operation and Security in Europe.

"I am a Senior Special Monitor with the OSCE," Santiago told Judi Gatson via email. "I was in the City of Luhansk which is where most of the issues are.  At one time I was the only American that far east in the Ukraine."

Santiago said his team's relations with the Pro-Russian separatists were good until they held some of his team members hostage. He says he narrowly avoided that situation himself.

"I was suppose to be on patrol that day with that team but I was asked to meet with the local police commander," Santiago said. "I'm just glad we were able to get them released."

The OSCE web site shows photos of its members touring the crash site last week:

"I'm more responsible for monitoring the police and military activity," Santiago said. "There are 57 countries involved with OSCE and Its been amazing to be able to work along side with so many skilled colleagues from different backgrounds and countries. I think the most difficult situation so far has been monitoring the crash site which is a pure mess on so many levels."

The Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down on July 17 over eastern Ukraine. Since then, separatists have controlled the site, limiting access to investigators and media.

"I can say it was very interesting and scary at the same time because you never knew what the Pro-Russian separatists are up to," Santiago said.

Santiago stepped down as interim chief back in March after he wasn't considered as a permanent replacement for Randy Scott.

He says he is enjoying his work, but misses Columbia.

"Of course I miss home and my family, but I'm proud to be apart of doing something positive on an international level," Santiago said.

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