New findings have led investigators to believe that the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 may have been conscious for more than a minute long, prior to the plane plummeting to the ground.
A Dutch-led team have found that the Boeing 777 was brought down after being hit by missile as it flew over fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine. 298 people were on board, all of whom were left dead. According to finings of the investigation, relatives had been told that their loved ones had died almost instantly.
The Dutch Safety Board’s official report found that most of the passengers who were not killed on impact would have been left unconscious by a mix of the aircrafts sudden decompression and a lack of Oxygen (at 33,000 ft). Though most passengers would have been rendered unconscious the report stated “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.”
Speaking of one victim, the board said they had found the passenger wearing an oxygen mask but were “unclear how the mask got there.”
In preparation for the release of key evidence at the Gilze-Rijen military base (Netherlands), the front of the jet was partially reconstructed. The board found that the Buk surface-to-air missile exploded in extremely close proximity to the plane, with evidence suggesting that the explosion went off less than a metre away from the MH17 cockpit (which is located to the left of the aircraft).
Hundreds of tiny fragments were found in the bodies of the three deceased crew members who were in the cockpit, according to the board.
The report stated that eastern Ukraine should have shut down it’s air space to civil aviation, with emphasis on the fact that the MH17 craft should never have been flying over the territory.
The board has lambasted the decision of 61 airlines who chose to continue flying over the area, explaining that the airlines should have recognised the potential dnagers.
On the day of the crash approximately 160 aircrafts used the same route as MH17.
Head of Dutch Safety Board, Tjibbe Joustra, said “No one considered that civil aircraft at cruising altitude were at risk.”
The board have now recommended that airlines be more transparent with their choice of routes and have suggested that aviation rules are changed in a way that will enforce this.
Russia is said to be displeased with the conclusion of the report, with the country disagreeing with the findings, one point of contention being the type of missile that was deemed to have been used.
The investigation – which was investigated over the span of 15 months- was not tasked with appointing blame or responsibility for the crash, a separate investigation into this is set to take place in the future. Both Ukrainian and Western governments have laid blame with pro-Russian separatists, claiming that they used Buk missiles supplied by Russia.
The militaries of both Ukraine and Russia possess Buk missiles.
Prior to the Dutch findings, a state controlled Russian firm, who are responsible for making Buk missiles, released their own report, with their findings heavily contradicting that of the Dutch Safety Board.