MH17 shot down by missile, airspace should have been closed

MH17 wreckage at Gilze-Rijen during presentation of the Safety Board's report on the disaster (Photo: NL Times/Zachary Newmark)MH17 wreckage at Gilze-Rijen during presentation of the Safety Board's report on the disaster (Photo: NL Times/Zachary Newmark)

A Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile over east Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the Dutch Safety Board announced in their final report into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. "Flight MH17 crashed as a result of the detonation of a warhead outside the airplane," tearing off the front portion of the aircraft, was the conclusion of the Board, chairman Tjibbe Joustra said..

"Recovery of the wreckage was a complicated process," with armed conflict and transportation making recovery extremely challenging. Dutch investigators recovered more wreckage two weeks ago, and more could be found in the future.

This will not, however, alter the Board's conclusions, Tjibbe Joustra said. All wreckage was tagged, sorted and examined for trace evidence and malfunctioning equipment, pointing to a missile strike, the report said.

The missile exploded over the left side of the cockpit, spraying shrapnel in a radial pattern, ruling out most other theories of the crash including gunfire and air-to-air missile strikes. One Russian-backed theory that the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet, was discounted.

It was a 9m314m warhead likely attached to a Buk surface-to-air missile. "There was sufficient reason to close off the airspace above eastern Ukraine,” the Joustra said, but Ukrainian authorities failed to do so.

Thousands of bow-tie and cubic-shaped pieces of shrapnel exploded towards the aircraft, with several hundred striking the plane, Joustra said. The impact killed three crew members in the cockpit, and caused the front of the plane to break away.

The tail section probably crashed before the center section with the center section and engines, hitting the ground upside down and catching on fire. Wreckage was scattered over 15 square kilometers.

It is still not clear where the missile was fired from, Joustra said. He called for more forensic investigative work to determine this, but said it falls outside of the scope of the Dutch Safety Board's mandate.

The Dutch Safety Board considered all theories from the Ukraine and Russian Federation. When it disagreed with them, they stated why in its final report. The report will be distributed Tuesday afternoon.

"Almost all [airline] operators were flying over that area. And why? Because nobody thought civil aviation was at risk." Joustra said.

In the months leading up to the incident, 16 military aircraft were shot down during the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukraine.

The Dutch Safety Board wants nations to put more effort into determining if airspace is safe for civil aviation.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 exploded in mid-air while flying over the eastern Ukraine conflict zone on July 17, 2014. The Boeing 777 took off from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew members. There were 193 Dutch citizens on the aircraft, which was destined for Kuala Lumpur.

Among those on the plane were 43 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 10 people from the United Kingdom. There were four Belgians and Germans, three from the Philippines and one Canadian on the flight.

News wire ANP reports that the Dutch Safety Board report states that all passengers on flight MH17 lost consciousness instantly. There is no chance that people on board felt anything. BBC-journalist Anna Holligan confirms on Twitter that the plane was hit by a BUK-missile, as widely believed in the West for some time now. She heard this from survivors of the victims. She also stated that the Board did not mention where the missile was fired from.