According to a preliminary report released by the Dutch Safety Board Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was hit with "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft" that caused the plane to break apart mid-air and crash in eastern Ukraine, leaving 298 people dead. The report all but confirms the widely-held suspicion that MH17 was shot down using a surface-to-air missile that detonates without actually striking its target, instead spraying shrapnel.
This type of missile, a BUK system that is mounted to a vehicle and easily moved, has been deployed by both Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists warring against each other in the region. Tim Ripley, a defense analyst with Jane's Defense Weekly magazine, told Reuters, "a large number of fragments would be consistent with a 'proximity' warhead, designed to explode in the air and hurl shrapnel at its target."
The U.S. and Ukraine have consistently held that Russia had armed separatists with the missile system capable of downing the plane; Russia and president Vladimir Putin have repeatedly blamed the Ukrainian military.
The Dutch Safety Board's early report was compiled from a host of external sources, owing to restricted access to the crash site. (Two-thirds of the planes passengers were from the Netherlands.) From the Wall Street Journal:
Air accident investigators issued their report with almost no access to the crash site, which is highly unusual for a crash on land, and said they relied on photographs rather than recovered wreckage in reaching their preliminary findings. Rebels in the area—and heavy fighting—have kept most investigators away from the site.
However, investigators did take possession of the plane's black boxes and were able to analyze a host of external data, including radio communication, radar and other flight data.
"A full listening of the communications among the crew members in the cockpit recorded on the cockpit voice recorder revealed no signs of any technical faults or an emergency situation," the report reads. "Neither were any warning tones heard in the cockpit that might have pointed to technical problems."
According to the BBC's Richard Westcott, investigators should soon be able to determine from where the missile was fired—western Russia or eastern Ukraine—"with a combination of radar data and evidence from the scene."
[Image via AP]