MH17 downed by “high-energy objects”

Dutch Safety Board releases preliminary report

Numerous high-energy objects pierced the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as it flew over eastern Ukrainian airspace, causing the aircraft to break up in mid-air, a preliminary report released by the Dutch Safety Board says.

The board stated it was likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft that led to an inflight breakup, explaining the abrupt end to data registration on the recorders, the simultaneous loss of contact with air traffic control and disappearance from radar.

While the 35-page report did not specifically say MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile, the BBC noted that the “high-energy objects” were consistent with how Russian-made BUK missiles work – exploding near the target to pierce it with shrapnel.

The report, can be seen here on the Dutch Safety Board website, ruled out pilot error and mechanical problems, and also said that there had been no on-board emergencies, pointing to an external cause instead. The board stressed that “more research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision.”

No blame was attributed by the report, which was aimed only at establishing the aviation circumstances surrounding the tragedy. But international media have highlighted the growing amount of evidence pointing towards Russian separatists’ role in the incident. The board’s final report is expected to be published next year.

Malaysian authorities have given some of the wreckage to the board for the Dutch-led investigation, but the head of the board, Tjibbe Joustra, told news agency Reuters that a site visit would greatly help.

“There are elements we are interested in. The cockpit is very important because a lot of those objects penetrated the cockpit,” he said, adding that flight instruments also contain data not registered by the flight data recorders.

TTG Asia / BBC / Reuters

[pictured: SA-11 (Buk) missile launcher; Wikipedia image by Olli-Jukka Paloneva]

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