By Times Staff
Investigators say “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft” likely crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
The Dutch team investigating the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine says the crash was likely caused by the plane being hit by multiple “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft.”
The preliminary report published Tuesday by the Dutch Safety Board stopped short of saying the Boeing 777 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, but its findings appear to point to that conclusion.
The Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky on July 17 at 33,000 feet over rebel-held territory in southeastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. Debris and remains were scattered across miles of farmland around the village of Hrabove in an area of Donetsk region under the control of pro-Russia separatists.
U.S. intelligence sources said shortly after the crash that the plane was destroyed by an SA-7 rocket fired by a Russian-made BUK launching system fired from separatist-held territory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied accusations that his government supplied the sophisticated anti-aircraft launcher to the separatists, who have seized much of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in a bid to retain Moscow’s influence in the predominantly Russian-speaking areas.
The gunmen blocked access to the crash site for two weeks and disturbed the debris field before the Dutch-led investigative team could begin their probe, the thwarted forensics experts told journalists in Kiev at the time. Fighting between the pro-Russia insurgents and Ukrainian government forces also delayed the investigation, which lasted less than a week before the Dutch government suspended it over security concerns.
A Dutch military forensics laboratory continues to work on identifying the remains collected by locals near the crash site, and the Dutch, Australian and Malaysian governments are proceeding with examination of evidence collected at the site during the few days they had access.
The Netherlands and Australia suffered the largest loss of life among nationals in the tragedy, with 196 and 38 citizens killed.
Dozens of the doomed passengers were researchers en route to an international AIDS conference in Australia, including prominent researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.