Joel Gunter, The Daily Telegraph, September 9, 2014
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, broke up in mid-air "as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside", according to a preliminary report published Tuesday by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB).
The report said there was no evidence of technical faults or an emergency situation prior to the crash, which killed all 298 of its passengers.
The flight proceeded as normal until coming to an abrupt end at 1.20pm on July 17, according to the report, and the flight's cockpit voice recorder gave no evidence of warning tones or an emergency situation in the cockpit prior to the break-up of the aircraft.
The DSB report does not apportion blame for the crash or mention that the plane may have been hit by a missile, but its conclusion that MH17 was hit by a "large number of high-energy objects" appears to be consistent with suspicion that the plane was brought down by a BUK surface-to-air missile, which breaks into shrapnel shortly before it hits its target.
Russian-backed separatists have been accused of shooting down the plane with a Moscow-supplied BUK missile. Russia has denied any involvement in the incident, claiming initially that the Ukrainian air force was to blame.
Ukrainian separatists responded to the report on Tuesday, claiming that that they did not have the capability to shoot down the flight. Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, told Russia's Interfax new agency: "I can say only one thing: we simply do not have the military hardware capable of shooting down a Boeing passenger jet such as the Malaysian plane."
DSB investigators have been unable to visit the site of the crash in the war-torn Donetsk region due to the continued fighting between the seperatists and the Ukrainian Army and have relied on information from Ukrainian crash specialists for information from the scene.
But its report says that the pattern of wreckage on the ground, studied in images of the crash scene, suggests that the aircraft split into pieces during flight.
The report's findings are based on information from the aircraft's flight data recorders, pictures and video taken at the scene, as well as information supplied by Ukranian air traffic control.
The DSB has not apportioned blame for the disaster, stating that the sole intention of its preliminary report is to determine the cause of the crash.
A seperate criminal investigation - the largest of its kind in Dutch history - is being carried out by investigators at The Hague. A full report from the DSB is expected around the middle of next year.
Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, said that the incident had "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 preliminary report issues the first findings in an ongoing investigation. From this point on, the investigation team will be working towards producing its final report. The Board aims to publish this report within one year of the date of the crash.”
Shortly after the crash forensic experts travelled to the site to collect victims' bodies, but that search has also been suspended due to heavy fighting in the area.
So far 193 victims of flight MH17 have been identified.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has accused pro-Russian rebels of waging fresh attacks in the east putting a fragile truce backed by Kiev and Moscow in peril.
It is hoped that air crash investigators will be able to return to the site if the ceasefire holds, but analysts said it was too early yet to make an assessment on the team's security.
This article was written by Joel Gunter from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.