MH17: Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down by 'large number of high-energy objects'

Dutch Safety Board's preliminary report says jet 'broke up in the air'

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The Independent Online

MH17 was shot down: that is the blunt conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board investigation into the loss of the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed on 17 July over eastern Ukraine with the loss of all 298 passengers and crew. 

The board’s preliminary report says the Boeing 777 jet “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside”. 

The aircraft was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit. There have been many claims that the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to separatist rebels in Ukraine. But the report does not assign blame; in line with aviation convention, the aim of investigations is to improve safety in future, not apportion liability for past events.

Ukrainian workers handle debris at the main crash site of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17

The investigators say there are no indications that the crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew: “The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until 13:20:03 (UTC), after which it ended abruptly.”

Initially, responsibility for the investigation rested with Ukraine, but six days after the crash it transferred responsibility to the Dutch Safety Board; 193 of the 283 passengers were Dutch nationals.

Video: The MH17 crash

The investigation has been hampered because the crash site is in a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine. The Dutch Safety Board says: “The Dutch government believes that people investigating the causes of the crash will be at greater risk than forensic investigators, next of kin or journalists.”

Tjibbe Joustra, Chairman of the Dutch Safety Board said: “The MH17 crash has shocked the world and raised many questions. The Dutch Safety Board wishes to determine the cause of the crash, for the sake of the loved ones of the victims and for society at large.”

“The initial results of the investigation point towards an external cause of the MH17 crash. More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The Safety Board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead.”

The investigators intend to publish a full report within a year of the crash.