Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Man found with oxygen mask leads to further questions over crash

No other bodies recovered from the wreckage were reported to have been found wearing masks

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Questions have been raised over how much passengers of the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine in July new about their impending fate, after it was revealed that the body of a man wearing an oxygen mask was found amongst the wreckage.

The Australian had the elastic strap around his neck, although the mask was not on his face, according to a spokesman for the Dutch National Prosecutor's Office, which is carrying out a criminal investigation into the air disaster.

Wim De Bruin said the mask was inspected by Dutch forensic experts "for fingerprints, saliva and DNA and that did not produce any results. So it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim".

All 298 passengers, including 80 children, and 15 crew members died when the jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on 17 July in the rebel-held territory of Donetsk Oblast.

He also said no other bodies recovered from the wreckage were found wearing masks and he did not know where in the plane the Australian victim was sitting.

Dutch air crash investigators said last month it was probably struck by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft", which some aviation experts say is consistent with a strike by a missile.


The most likely of possible scenarios being considered is that the Boeing 777 was shot down from the ground, said the head of the investigation.

The passenger’s relatives were told about the mask as soon as it was discovered, but relatives of other victims heard about it for the first time when Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans mentioned it during an interview on a late-night talk show yesterday.

He acknowledged that those on board would not have seen the missile hit the plane but questioned why one passenger had enough time to put on the oxygen mask.

"But do you know that someone was found with an oxygen mask on their mouth - and so they had the time to put it on?" Mr Timmermans said.

Several experts concluded that the plane would have fell apart too quickly for the passengers to have known anything about it.

Relatives of victims began calling investigators on Thursday asking about Mr Timmermans' comments, Mr De Bruin said.

The foreign ministry issued a statement saying Mr Timmermans regretted his comments.

He said: “I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the next-of-kin. The last thing I want to do is compound their suffering in this way.”

The Dutch Safety Board says it will take a year to complete a full investigation of the crash and a completed report is expected in mid-2015.