A MISSILE launched from rebel-held Ukraine ripped the cockpit from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Dutch investigators reported yesterday, adding that some passengers may have remained conscious for another minute or so as the airflow tore off their clothes and objects spinning through the cabin killed people in neighbouring seats.
The investigators said in their final report that the Buk missile that downed the Boeing 777 exploded less than a metre from the cockpit, killing the two pilots and the purser inside in an instant and breaking off the front of the plane.
All parties regarded the conflict in Ukraine from a military perspective. Nobody gave any thought to civil aviation”TJIBBE JOUSTRA
While some of the passengers may have been conscious for up to 90 seconds it took to hit the ground, they probably were not fully aware of what was happening amid the oxygen-starved, freezing chaos.
The tragedy that killed all 298 people aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur wouldn’t have happened if the airspace of eastern Ukraine had been closed to passenger planes as fighting raged below, the Dutch Safety Board added.
“Our investigation showed that all parties regarded the conflict in eastern part of Ukraine from a military perspective. Nobody gave any thought of a possible threat to civil aviation,” Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra said.
The report did not consider who launched the missile. However, it identified an area of 320 square kilometres from which the launch must have taken place. All the territory within the area was in rebel separatist hands at the time of the crash, according to daily maps of fighting released by the Ukrainian National Security Council.
The Netherlands has headed the investigation into the disaster because 196 victims on the flight were Dutch, and Ukraine agreed to let the Netherlands take the lead role. It is also leading a separate criminal investigation into the crash.
Mr Joustra said the 15-month investigation found the warhead was that used on a Buk surface-to-air missile system. Missile fragments found in the cockpit crew’s bodies, as well as paint traces, enabled investigators to identify the Buk.
Ukraine and Western nations contend that the missile was launched by Russian-backed rebels, while Russia says if the plane was brought down by a missile, it must have been launched by Ukrainian government forces.
Mr Joustra said Russia had been given a chance to review the conclusions in advance, and added that it was not possible to determine the type of missile or warhead with certainty.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on Russia to fully cooperate with the criminal investigation into the downing of the plane.
He said a key priority “is now tracking down and prosecuting the perpetrators.”