Flight MH17 was brought down by “a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside”, investigators have concluded.
Releasing its report into the downing of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft, the Dutch Safety Board said that a series of small puncture holes and indentations in the body of the Boeing 777 aircraft, including the cockpit, caused the aircraft to break up mid-flight.
“The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up,” the report stated.
It added that the distribution of debris on the ground was further evidence that the aircraft “broke up in the air”.
While the report doesn’t apportion any blame for the incident, the damage described is consistent with that of a ground-to-air missile.
The BBC this week reported eye-witnesses as saying that a Russian-made ‘Buk’ missile launcher was in the area at the exact time flight MH17 crashed.
“We just saw it being offloaded and when the Buk started its engine the exhaust smoke filled the whole town square,” one local person told the BBC’s Panorama programme. The town referred to was Snezhnoye, less than 20km from the crash site.
Another eye-witness was quoted saying that the Buk team had “pure Russian accents”.
Pro-Russian rebels have consistently denied that they were responsible for shooting down flight MH17 and the Russian government has denied arming the rebels.
The Dutch report also revealed details of the aircraft’s black boxes. The cockpit voice recordings from MH17 were said to give “no indication that there was anything abnormal with the flight”. The recording also ended “abruptly”. No aircraft system warnings were detected by the flight data recorder.
The report also said it found “no evidence” that MH17’s black boxes had been tampered with.
All 298 people onboard flight MH17 were killed when the aircraft crashed in eastern Ukraine in July.