Grabovo, Ukraine — July 17, 2014 — Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday by what appears to be a Russian made surface-to-air missile. All 298 people aboard the flight – including one American – were killed in what the Ukrainian government has called an “act of terrorism.” The Malaysia Airlines plane crash happened at around 4:21 p.m. near the town of Gravobo.
Here’s what we know so far about the MH17 crash:
- Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam and was bound for Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines informed the media that the plane had 283 passengers and 15 crew members aboard.
- The victims that have so far been identified are from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, England, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
- The U.S. victim has been identified as Quinn Lucas Schansman, who held dual citizenship.
- A number of passengers were en route to the International AIDS conference, which begins Sunday in Melbourne, Australia. Reports have indicated that some of the world’s brightest minds in the field of AIDS research perished in the MH17 crash.
- The Boeing 777-200 aircraft was at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet when it was shot down. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 runs daily and follows the same route over Ukrainian airspace despite the ongoing conflict.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says no U.S. flights have been flying over eastern Ukraine. Qantas Airlines stopped flying over the airspace where the Malaysia Airlines plane went down “some time ago,” according to a spokesman for the airline. Likewise, Singapore Airlines is no longer using Ukrainian airspace.
- The part of eastern Ukraine where the plane went down has been a hotbed of fighting between Ukraine’s central government and pro-Russian separatists.
- The missile originated in an area known to be controlled by the pro-Russian separatists, who have received a” steady flow” of weapons and training from Russia.
- The Ukrainian government claims to have intercepted a phone conversation in which the pro-Russian separatists admit to shooting down the plane. However, U.S. officials have not yet authenticated the recorded conversation.
- Pro-Russian separatists have found the plane’s black boxes. Their statements indicate that they will hand over the black boxes to Russia, which could call into question the integrity of the subsequent plane crash investigation.
Veteran aviation attorney, Ronald Goldman, is disturbed by the reports that the pro-Russian separatists are preventing inspectors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe access to the wreckage, stating that international independent experts need to get to the wreckage, undisturbed, immediately. “Without expert, unbiased, examination, all the knowable details necessary to complete the investigation will be lost. It is urgent that access be allowed as soon as possible.”
Watch the YouTube clip of Ukrainian intelligence who captured this recording of pro-Russian separatists admitting to shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The recording has not yet been authenticated by U.S. officials.
What’s Next in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Investigation?
- The U.S. has offered to have the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) assist in the investigation.
- “It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. We urge all concerned – Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine – to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains.” – White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Updates
MH17 Update: Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of MH17 Families | October 12, 2015
It’s been over 450 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it fell from the sky, presumably after being hit with an SA-11 missile system (known as a Buk). Ukraine and numerous other governments have placed blame for the MH17 tragedy on Russian-supported separatists.
As families of those killed in the MH17 crash eagerly await a Dutch report on the July 14, 2014 incident, expected to be released in the next couple of days, two lawsuits are now going after both Russia and Ukraine. One of the MH17 lawsuits was filed in U.S. federal court back in July on behalf of 18 MH17 families. That lawsuit, which targets both Malaysia Airlines and Igor Girkin (better known as Igor Strelkov, a Russian army artillery veteran who played a key role in the War in Donbass), is seeking $50 million for each victim (a total of $900 million).
The MH17 lawsuit claims that the deaths were extrajudicial killings committed using missiles transported from Russia to Ukraine. According to the International Business Times, the MH17 lawsuit further claims that Malaysia Airlines deliberately operated a flight plan flight over an internationally-recognized conflict zone.
The other reported MH17 lawsuit, filed in Germany, casts blame on the Ukrainian government for not closing its airspace at a time when the country was embroiled in a conflict with Russian separatists.
Father of UK MH17 Victim Speaks Out | December 18, 2014
Ben Pocock was one of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash earlier this year in eastern Ukraine. The 20-year-old Keynsham, a United Kingdom resident was studying international business at Loughborough University. Roughly 500 people attended his funeral held earlier this month. Pocock’s father Jeremy told the BBC today that he considers his family “fortunate – if that’s the right word” in comparison with the scores of families who are still waiting for their MH17 loved ones to be identified. Four Dutch families reportedly haven’t received any identification whatsoever, something Pocock says is “absolutely dreadful.”
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed after it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Evidence points to pro-Russian rebels as the culprits of the attack, though they continue to blame the Ukrainian government. Families of the victims are still waiting for answers, seeking closure.
Pocock said in the interview that over 700 fragments of human remains from the crash site have yet to be identified. He was told these remains may not be identified until next May. So far, identification has been minimal, says Pocock, which has left many families in limbo; not able to have a funeral, not able to move forward.
The MH17 tragedy has left families with far more questions than answers. Pocock wonders why a commercial airline was allowed to fly over a war zone. He says it’s easy to get emotional over the tragedy but feels that a full investigation where all the evidence is properly gathered and studied is the only way to secure justice for the MH17 victims.
Malaysia to Participate as Full Member of MH17 Crash Investigation Team | December 6, 2014
Malaysia will join the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash investigation team focused on identifying the perpetrators of the shootdown and subsequent crash. The country will be participating with investigation teams from Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Ukraine.
MH17 is believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists. All of those aboard the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight perished in the crash, including 44 Malaysian citizens.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said that his country’s participation in the investigation should help uncover vital evidence used to bring those responsible for the tragedy to justice. According to the Malay Mail, high-ranking Malaysian investigators departed on Wednesday for the Hague to attend a meeting on the current state of the criminal investigation.
Mother of MH17 Victim Suing Ukrainian Authorities | December 1, 2014
The mother of a German woman who died in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash has filed a lawsuit against Ukraine, claiming the country should have shut down airspace over the country in lieu of ongoing fighting with pro-Russian separatists. MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17. All of the 298 people aboard the flight were killed, including four German citizens.
According to Reuters, “Olga L.” is seeking $1 million in compensation from Ukrainian authorities for manslaughter and negligence. Her legal team claims that despite the dangers posed to air travelers, Ukraine kept air space open because they wanted to profit from transit flight fees paid to the country. At the time of the crash, 700 flights per day would net Ukraine several million dollars a month in fees.
So far, European governments have not assigned blame for the crash. Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists being responsible for the shootdown and subsequent crash.
Months After the MH17 Tragedy, Many Unknowns Remain | November 19, 2014
It has been roughly four months since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard the plane. While investigators are certain the plane was brought down by a missile, they still are uncertain about a variety of issues related to the crash.
What We Still Don’t Know About MH17:
- The BBC reports that growing evidence supports the theory that the Boeing 777-200ER was hit by a Russian-supplied missile fired by pro-Russian separatists. The Russians claim that the missile was fired by a Ukrainian fighter jet, though the Ukrainian government has denied this and no evidence has been found to support the claim. Still, there is not enough evidence to say definitively whether the missile was Russian.
- At present, there is a “solid case” that the missile was a surface-to-air missile known as a “Buk.” According to Interpreter Magazine, there is a theory that the missile was fired just east of Khartsyzsk. This theory is based on a picture released by the Ukrainian government, which shows a smoke trail presumably from the surface-to-air missile originating in that area. Nonetheless, more evidence is needed to definitely conclude where the missile originated from.
Officials have indicated that the most likely reason the plane was shot down was that pro-Russian separatists mistook MH17 for another aircraft. Like the other theories listed above, we won’t officially know why this happened until the investigation is completed.
MH17 Crash Investigation Compromised From Day One | November 1, 2014
It doesn’t often happen that an investigation into a major airline crash is seriously compromised, but that is exactly what happened from the moment Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took to the Sunday morning talk shows three days after the Boeing 777-200ER was shot down, killing all 298 people on board. Kerry said that officials who were tasked with securing the crash site were only given 75 minutes on the scene the day after the crash. The next day, they were only given three hours. In other words, investigators were stonewalled from being able to do their jobs.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists, whom Kerry referred to as “drunken separatist soldiers,” were removing parts from the plane as well as bodies of the deceased from the crash site. Kerry noted that anything removed from the crash site compromises the integrity of the investigation.
So, what is actually supposed to happen when a crash of this magnitude occurs? The first thing investigators do is secure the scene so that only those with clearance can be present. Next, all evidence is documented and photographed. Once every piece of evidence has been properly marked, including the dirt where the aircraft was found, the wreckage is moved to a large hangar where a team goes to great lengths to reconstruct the crash aircraft and examine it more closely.
“All investigative protocol should have been left in place following an aviation disaster of this magnitude,” says aviation attorney Ron Goldman. “This is an act of terrorism that demands a proper investigation. Unfortunately, the wreckage is so compromised that it appears the investigation will be tainted.”
Malaysia Transportation Minister: We Need Global Flight Tracking | October 30, 2014
Malaysia’s Transportation Minister has asked the international community to improve real-time tracking of commercial flights across the globe. Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai addressed the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 203rd session this week, saying more steps need to be taken to improve safety and security in civil aviation around the world in the wake of the recent Malaysia Airlines disasters.
Among the ideas pushed by Liow was to improve aircraft tracking by implementing real-time flight tracking around the world. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from radar on March 8 and has been missing ever since. According to the Star, Liow also highlighted the need for information sharing in the global aviation community when it comes to flight risks. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over a war-torn part of eastern Ukraine in July. On the same topic of MH17, Liow reminded ICAO members of the importance of finalizing thorough investigation into the MH17 shootdown and crash. The investigation has thus far been hampered by ongoing fighting in the region of the crash site.
Dutch Officials Release Preliminary Report on MH17 Crash | September 9, 2014
Investigators from the Netherlands have released their initial findings on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash, saying the plane went down after being hit by “high-energy objects.” The Boeing 777 plane crashed on July 17 in a war-torn part of eastern Ukraine, killing all of the 298 people on board.
MH17 departed from Amsterdam and was heading to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Though the preliminary report did not directly attribute blame, most experts believe the missile was fired by pro-Russian separatists, who have been fighting in that region with Ukrainian soldiers. Investigators also indicated that so far they have found no evidence of technical failure with the plane or the MH17 crew.
According to Time, investigators from the Netherlands expect to produce a final report on the MH17 crash within a year.
Dutch Investigators Leave MH17 Crash Site | August 11, 2014
Investigators from the Netherlands have been pulled away from the site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash in eastern Ukraine. The Dutch Safety Board, which has taken charge of the crash investigation, said there is little left for them to learn at the site.
Investigators were given few opportunities to visit the MH17 crash site due to instability in the region and poor supervision. Only a select few investigators were able to briefly visit the site in the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash on July 17. The Boeing 777 aircraft is believed to have been shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists. Most of the crash victims were Dutch.
The Dutch Safety Board said in a statement that the investigation will continue in The Hague.
Malaysian Prime Minister Travels to Netherlands, Calls For Cease Fire in Ukraine | July 31, 2014
“The conflict in eastern Ukraine may not be easily resolved, but the people on board that plane had no part in it.” — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak made his first official visit to the Netherlands today since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 earlier this month. It has been over two weeks since MH17 was shot down. The remains and possessions of some of the crash victims have yet to be recovered.
Razak met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and called for a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine so that international investigators could access the crash site and remove any of the remaining bodies.
“We ask there be an immediate cessation of hostilities in and around the crash site by both Ukrainian and separatist forces,” Razak said on Thursday. He also asked that both sides “respect the lives lost and the integrity of the crash site so that the investigators may proceed.”
The Netherlands Receives First Victims’ Bodies From Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash | July 23, 2014
The Netherlands observed a national day of mourning today to honor the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash. Of the 298 victims, 193 were Dutch citizens. The flags of all nations that lost citizens in the crash were flying at half-mast today throughout the country, and a minute of silence was observed to honor those lost.
Members of the Dutch royal family and hundreds of families who have lost loved ones were present at Eindhoven airbase as the coffins arrived from Ukraine. The coffins were loaded into hearses and taken to Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks, where the bodies will be identified. According to BBC News, the identification process could take months to complete.
In the wake of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy, many around the world expressed outrage over the delayed response in recovering the bodies of victims. Blame has been levied on the pro-Russian separatists that control the region where the plane went down. However, Alexander Borodai, who is one of the separatist leaders, told the BBC that officials from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) instructed the separatists to leave the victims to be collected by experts. An OSCE spokesman has denied Borodai’s claim.
International Investigators Finally Reach MH17 Crash Site | July 31, 2014
A team of police and forensic specialists from the Netherlands and Australia have finally reached the site Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash. Efforts to reach the MH17 crash site had been delayed for several days as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military continued in the wake of the tragedy. At least 10 soldiers in the Ukrainian military were killed in an ambush led by pro-Russian separatists not far from the MH17 crash site. The ambush came only a few hours before the foreign investigators arrived, at a time when both sides had agreed to a cease-fire around the crash site. The foreign investigators are expected to begin their work by retrieving more human remains as well as collect the belongings of victims. According to the Guardian, the precise number of remains left at the crash site is still unclear.
Pro-Russian Separatists Hand over Black Boxes from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 | July 21, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists have handed over the black boxes from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The Malaysian airliner was presumably shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired by the rebels. In a press conference held late Monday night in a government building in Donetsk, Russian separatist leader Alexander Borodai handed over the black boxes to a delegation of Malaysian officials. The press conference was held roughly 12 hours after negotiations began to facilitate the turnover. The black boxes will now be transported from Ukraine to a lab in southern England under the supervision of the Air Accidents Investigations Branch.
Of the 298 victims, 282 bodies were transported by refrigerated train to Donetsk on Monday night. According to the Guardian, the train will eventually travel to Ukrainian government-controlled Kharkiv. Many expressed outrage that it took days to remove the victims from the crash site, despite the ongoing military conflict in the area. “After the crime comes to the cover-up,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. “What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale, and obviously that has to stop.”