MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The crash of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was caused by external forces, the Dutch Safety Board said in a preliminary report released on Tuesday, September 9.
The Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky over eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, killing all on board including 193 Dutch citizens. There were also 3 Filipinos on board.
“Flight MH17 with a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside,” the board said in a statement Tuesday.
The investigators also said that based on the pattern of the wreckage on the ground “suggests that the aircraft split into pieces during flight (an in-flight break up).”
The findings appear to back up claims that the plane was hit by shrapnel from a missile.
‘No evidence’ of human error
Investigators used information from a wide range of sources for the 34-page report released online via the board’s website. These sources, they said, including flight operational data, satellite and crash site imagery, air traffic surveillance data, and the plane’s black boxes.
The investigators did not find “evidence of technical or human error.”
“The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until 13:20:03 (UTC), after which it ended abruptly,” the board said.
The aircraft was in “an airworthy condition prior to departure,” the report noted, as it had just undergone an overhaul and maintenance check. There were also no technical malfunctions on the aircraft, based on maintenance records.
As for the flight recorders, they found no evidence or indication that it was manipulated.
Copies of the preliminary report have already been sent to representatives of countries that have participated in the investigation. These included Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and Australia.
“The preliminary report issues the first findings in a ongoing investigation. From this point on, the investigation team will be working towards producing its final report,” said Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board.
“The Board aims to publish this report within one year of the date of the crash,” he added.
Second tragedy for Malaysia Airlines
While the preliminary report from Dutch investigators does not point the finger of blame over the July air disaster, it could heighten Western pressure against Moscow over its role in the bloody Ukraine conflict.
Kiev and the West accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the plane with a surface-to-air missile supplied by Moscow.
Russia, which denies mounting Western claims of direct involvement in the five-month conflict in Ukraine, has blamed government forces for the attack.
Shortly after the release of the report, pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine said they did not have the capability to shoot down MH17
“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,” Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russia’s Interfax new agency.
The MH17 disaster was the second tragedy for Malaysia Airlines after the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 in March, and threw the global spotlight back on the bloody uprising in eastern Ukraine.
The report is being issued just days after a ceasefire backed by Kiev and Moscow came into force on Friday to try to end a war that has killed over 2,700 people and sent at least half a million fleeing their homes.
Dutch investigators have been unable to visit the site in the Donetsk region because of the fighting, and have relied on information from Ukrainian crash specialists for information from the scene. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com