Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of “high-energy objects” from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
Flight 17 came down in eastern Ukraine on July 17 in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Of the 298 people killed, around two-thirds were Dutch.
The U.S. and Ukraine have accused pro-Russian separatists operating in the region of downing the plane with a missile.
The Dutch Safety Board report supports the theory of a warhead exploding in close proximity to the passenger jet, but it doesn’t point any fingers at who might have fired it.
“Anybody who’s looking for blame, or somebody who says that the rebels did it or that somebody else did it, is going to be disappointed,” said CNN Aviation Correspondent Richard Quest. “That’s not what this report says.”
Plane pierced ‘from outside’
The Boeing 777 “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,” a press release accompanying the report said.
“There are no indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew,” the statement said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the report “leads to the strong suspicion that a surface to air missile brought MH17 down, but further investigative work is needed before we can be certain.”
The separatists, who deny responsibility for bringing down the plane, took control of the crash site for weeks, combing through the wreckage and hindering access to investigators.
The flight recorders, generally known as black boxes, weren’t handed over to international investigators for several days. But the Dutch report says investigators found “no evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorders.”
It said there was no sign of any audible alerts or of any malfunction or worries communicated between the crew on the flight data recorders.
Unable to visit site
The Dutch investigators say they still haven’t been able to visit the site amid the unstable situation in eastern Ukraine.
“Coordinated access to the wreckage site by the international team of air safety investigators has not yet been possible,” it said. “It is the intention of the Dutch Safety Board to visit the site whenever it is possible to safely conduct further investigation of the wreckage.”
The investigation team had to rely on photographs of wreckage taken by officials from Ukraine’s National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation during a series of short visits to the site in July, the report said.
The Dutch investigators set out a list of areas that still need further investigation, including forensic examination of wreckage and any foreign objects found.