A missile warhead that exploded outside the cockpit brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, a Dutch report released Tuesday found.
The Boeing 777 was heading from Amsterdam to Malaysia when it was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. All 298 people aboard the aircraft died in the July 2014 crash.
The Dutch Safety Board has lead an international investigation into the crash, at the request of Ukraine, which remains locked in conflict with pro-Russian separatists in its eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Dutch Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra said the warhead the downed the plane fit a Buk rocket system, referring to Russian military technology. But Russian officials who participated in the investigation said it was not possible to confirm the warhead or type of system, according to Joustra.
Joustra said that “none of the aviation parties involved” — including Ukrainian authorities who failed to close off the airspace — “recognized the risks posed to civil aviation by the armed conflict on the ground.” He said the parties viewed the conflict from a military perspective and nobody considered the risk to civil aviation.
“As a precaution, there was sufficient reason for Ukraine authorities to close the airspace above the eastern part of the country” where armed conflict was taking place , Joustra said at Gilze-Rijen airbase in the Netherlands.
Crew immediately killed
In its report, the board said that “pre-formed fragments” from the warhead explosion killed three crew members immediately but were not found in the plane’s other occupants.
“As a result of the impact, they were exposed to extreme and many different, interacting factors: abrupt deceleration and acceleration, decompression and associated mist formation, decrease in oxygen level, extreme cold, strong airflow, the aeroplane’s very rapid descent and objects flying around,” the report said.
“The Dutch Safety Board did not find any indications of conscious actions performed by the occupants after the missile’s detonation. It is likely that the occupants were barely able to comprehend the situation in which they found themselves.”
Speaking later Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said of those who took down the plane: “We must do the utmost so that the people who did it will not avoid … punishment.”
Rutte added that the investigation has had “an enormous impact” on the Netherlands’ relationship with Russia.
“What I would really like to do is to call on the Russian authorities to respect and also give full cooperation to this report and the continued investigation that the criminal prosecutors are doing,” he told reporters Tuesday.
SOURCE: Susannah Cullinane