MIAMI — Pro-Russian rebels turned over MH17’s black boxes on Tuesday to investigators as international monitors finally received unmitigated access to the wide-spread crash site in eastern Ukraine. According to reports, what they have found is far from heartening.
Evidence of tampering was said to be rampant on-site. The cockpit was found inexplicably sawed in half, while rear fuselage sections were discovered to have been hacked into. Other sections had been moved and altered.
Exactly why such actions were taken remains the central question. The pro-Russian rebels were already suspected of being responsible for Thursday’s attack, accidentally or otherwise, and the actions at the crash-site have only bolstered those accusing the rebels of staging a cover-up.
Yesterday several sections of fuselage were found with damage consistent with a SA-11 SAM blast.
Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was en route Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th. All 298 souls aboard were lost.
July 17, 2014 at 1730 EST: At a press conference in Amsterdam, officials held a press conference, but there is still a lot not known. Currently, officials are assisting the passenger’s families in Amsterdam.
In Malaysia, the Prime Minister held a press conference and explained that there was no distress signal. Also, they are ready to help, and they have dispatched people to assist in Kiev. Additionally, Ukrainian officials are working to ensure that people will be able to access the crash site safely.
It is being reported that there were 154 Dutch on board; 27 Australian; 23 Malaysia; 11 Indonesia; 6 UK; 4 Germany; 4 Belgium; 3 Philippines; 1 Canada. However, this is not the full list of passengers on-board.
Lastly, it is reporting that U.S. officials have concluded that the plane was shot down because they were able to detect a surface to air system that was tracking an aircraft about the time the plane went down. However, it is not known who shot the plane.
July 17 at 1500 EST:The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has issued the following statement:
Today, at approximately 4:20 p.m. Malaysian Airlines No. 17, which was flying the route from Amsterdam – Kuala – Lumpur, disappeared from radar screens.
In recent days, this is the third tragic accident, after the AN-26 and SU-25 aircrafts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were shot down from the Russian territory. We do not exclude that this aircraft was also shot down, and stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not commit any actions in the air [at the time of the downing].
The President of Ukraine on behalf of the State expresses its deepest and most sincere condolences to the families and relatives of those killed in this terrible tragedy. Every possible search and rescue effort is being made.
The President appealed to the Cabinet in order to quickly create a State commission to investigate the causes of this tragedy. The President proposed to involve the work of experts of the Commission of the ICAO and other international organizations, and representatives of the Netherlands and Malaysia.
We are confident that those responsible for this tragedy will be brought to justice.
The FAA has issued a notice preventing flights from operating through Ukrainian airspace until further notice. You can read the notice here.
July 17 at 1430 EST: According to Interfax, Pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine say they have found the black box flight recorder.
British Airways and Aeroflot have both told Reuters that there will not be using Ukrainian airspace. However, British Airways says the only flight that will fly in Ukrainian airspace will be its daily flight to Kiev, but the airline is still keeping the service under review,
The Washington Post writes that “the Buk, also known as the SA-11, is a medium-range mobile missile platform that can engage targets flying at altitudes well above MH17’s last reported figures — by some estimates, as much as 72,000 feet.” Here is a video of one in action.
Video of smoke which locals say is from the crash site.
Map courtesy of Flight Aware.
July 17 at 13:30 EST: As of 1PM EST, Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that it has lost contact with the aircraft, but it has not confirmed that the aircraft has crashed. The airline has put a message via Twitter: “Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.”
In a statement, Malaysia Airlines says:
Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day.
The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard.
More details to follow.
Some Ukrainian government officials are saying that the aircraft was shot down, according to the Associated Press.
“We are aware of reports on MH17. We’re gathering more information,” Boeing said on Twitter, and in a statement, it said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board MH17, as well as their families and loved ones. We stand ready to provide assistance.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a tweet: “I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.”
Multiple airlines are now reporting they will elect to avoid airspace over eastern Ukraine.