Thirty-eight Australians were killed when Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was shot out of the sky by an anti-aircraft missile, and today investigators have released their final report into the tragedy, with some news that will hopefully help victims’ families find some small measure of peace.
The Dutch team that has painstakingly pieced together the fragments of the plane and examined the final moments of tragic flight has come to the conclusion that most, if not all, 298 people were killed “almost instantly” when the missile exploded to the left of the plane’s cockpit.
While the crew and pilot certainly died instantly, there may have been a few seconds after the cockpit was ripped off the plane where passengers would have been aware something had happened, but that the sudden exposure would have rendered most unconscious.
The report added, “It cannot be ruled out that some occupants remained conscious for some time during the one to one-and-a-half minutes for which the crash lasted.”
The Dutch Safety Board confirmed that one passenger was found with an oxygen mask, although they don’t know how it came to be there.
While some media sites are focusing on this aspect of the investigation, Dutch Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra told relatives in a special briefing that it is most likely the passengers died very quickly in the air.
No one could have survived the impact with the ground, which occurred 90 seconds after the warhead exploded next to the Boeing 777, the investigators found.
Relatives of the victims were given a briefing on the report at The Hague overnight and Dutch relative Robby Oehlers said a wave of sadness swept through the room and during the briefing – ‘it was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop,’ reports Sky News.
The Dutch Safety Board confirmed that it was a Russian-brand of missile fired from an area held by Russian-backed rebels that brought down the plane. Russia has denied this and supplied its own evidence to dispute the Dutch findings.
The Guardian reports today that the investigation has left a “gaping hole”:
“Investigators have stressed time and again that the question of blame went beyond their mandate and would have to be dealt with by a separate criminal investigation – it leaves perhaps the biggest question unanswered. Who shot MH17 out of the sky?”
Do you welcome this news into the tragedy of flight MH17 – do you think it will bring some relief to the victims’ families?