MH17 Crash: Dutch Experts Say Numerous Objects Hit Plane

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Dutch experts say Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 broke up in mid-air after being hit by "objects" that "pierced the plane at high velocity" in July.

The crash site was in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, making the investigation even more difficult.

The new report also said there was "no evidence of technical or human error". 

Correspondents say this matches claims that MH17 was hit by missile shrapnel. 

Investigators relied on cockpit data, air traffic control and images, as the crash site in eastern Ukraine remains too dangerous to access amid fighting between government troops and rebels.

The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

All 298 people on board, most of them from the Netherlands, died when the plane came down, amid reports it was shot down by pro-Russian rebels.


This report doesn't say flight MH17 was knocked from the sky by a missile.

But it pretty much rules out anything else.

There were no emergencies on board, no mechanical problems, the pilots didn't make any mistakes.

Instead, it talks about the plane being punctured by "high-velocity objects", which is consistent with how the BUK missile system works (that's the system many suspect was responsible).

They don't actually hit the target, they explode nearby and pepper it with shrapnel for maximum damage.

But all of this doesn't answer the critical question.

Who fired the missile?

Both sides in this conflict use the same weapon.

To find out who made this terrible mistake, they need to determine where on the ground the missile was actually launched from.

And one expert told me that they should eventually be able to work that out with a combination of radar data and evidence from the scene.

There is one very sobering fact also highlighted in this report.

Three other, very large commercial airliners flew over the same area at around the same time.

They said the plane "broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-velocity objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside."

The cockpit voice recorder revealed no signs of any technical faults or an emergency situation, the experts said.

The investigators have not visited the crash site because of fighting in the area but they said photographic evidence of the wreckage suggests the plane split into pieces during "an in-flight break up".

Maintenance history showed the aircraft was airworthy and had no known technical problems when it took off from Amsterdam, the report added.

Experts said it was manned by "a qualified and experienced crew" and that engines were running normally at 293 knots at 33,000ft (cruise altitude).

Radio communications between the pilot and Ukrainian air traffic control confirm that no emergency call was made. line

Criminal investigation 

While it is not the final report into the crash, the findings are significant because they are the first official account of what happened, says the BBC's Anna Holligan in the Netherlands.

The report does not attribute blame or liability for the crash but a separate criminal investigation is being conducted by prosecutors in The Hague, she adds.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak welcomed the report, saying it "leads to the strong suspicion that a surface-to-air missile brought MH17 down".

Meanwhile, the rebel leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, insisted the separatists did not have the capability to shoot down the plane.

"I can say one thing only: we simply do not have the kind of hardware that could have downed a commercial Boeing, including that Malaysian plane," he told the Russian Interfax news agency.

Ukraine's government and several Western leaders say there is strong evidence that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with an anti-aircraft system known as Buk.

Russia has consistently denied allegations that it had supplied any missiles or weapons to the rebels.

The search for evidence has been hampered by heavy fighting in the region, and Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai called on both sides to grant investigators full access.

"The crash site is a criminal investigation area and it is imperative that we protect the integrity of the crash site and allow the investigation to proceed," he said.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and thousands more wounded since violence between rebels and Ukrainian government forces erupted in April.

The Dutch Safety Board is leading an international probe to try to piece together evidence on what happened to flight MH17.

Experts from the UK, Germany, Australia, Malaysia, the US, Ukraine and Russia are collaborating on the case.

The board says it expects the final report to be published within a year.

Key findings of report 

Likely that damage resulted in loss of structural integrity of aircraft, leading to break-up in the air.

Forward parts of plane found near Petropavlivka closest to last flight data broadcast.

Cockpit window contained numerous small puncture holes suggesting small objects entered from above level of cockpit floor.

Damage to forward section indicates plane penetrated by large number of high-velocity objects from outside.

No evidence found of manipulation of flight and data recorders.

No indication of technical or operational issues with plane or crew.

Source: BBC News World