10 things we learned from MH17 crash report

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the crash Credit: Reuters

More than a year after 298 people were killed when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, investigators have revealed details of the plane's final few moments.

Following the release of a report by the Dutch Safety Board, an international team of prosecutors led by the Netherlands revealed it had identified a number of "persons of interest" in trying to find those responsible.

Here are 10 things we learned from today's report:

  • The missile was Russian-made

The report found that the missile which hit the flight was a Russian-made 9N314M warhead installed on the Buk surface-to-air missile system.

Above, the surface-to-air missile used to bring down MH17 - and below, the blast radius Credit: Dutch Safety Board
  • The blast originated outside the cockpit

The missile detonated outside and above the left hand side of the cockpit, causing major structural damage to the front of the aircraft and causing the plane to break-up in mid-air.

Wreckage was found spanning some 70km, stretching from the village of Petropavlivka and the town of Hrabove.

  • It took up to a minute and a half for the plane to reach the ground

After the break-up of the craft, it took between a minute and a minute and a half for the centre and rear parts of the fuselage - without its front section, which was blown off by the missile hit - to hit the ground.

Other, lighter parts would have taken longer to crash land.

A reconstruction of the plane from the wreckage found has helped investigators determine the location and force of the blast.

  • Some people may have still been conscious after the missile hit

Those on board would have been subjected to a number of extreme factors, according to the report - including abrupt deceleration and acceleration, decompression, a sudden drop in oxygen levels, extreme cold, high wind, and rapid descent, as well as objects "flying around".

Most people would have fallen unconscious almost immediately, the report found Credit: Reuters

Many people were found to have suffered injuries which were probably instantly fatal.

In others, the exposure was considered likely to have caused "reduced awareness or unconsciousness" within a short space of time. Investigators did not find any evidence of "conscious actions" performed by staff or passengers.

Anyone who was still alive would have been killed instantly when the plane hit the ground.

  • Other planes had been shot down in the same region in the days beforehand

Two military aeroplanes had been shot down over eastern Ukraine in the days before MH17 was hit, leading investigators to argue authorities should have recognised the potential risk to civil aircraft.

An Antonov An-26 on July 14, and a Sukhoi Su-25 on July 16 - the day before the tragedy.

  • We don't know who fired the missile

The board found that the missile could have originated anywhere within a 320km sq area within eastern Ukraine.

Further forensic investigation would be required to determine the exact launch location, the report says - but adds that that falls outside the remit of the investigators.

It is not known who fired the missile Credit: Reuters
  • There was nothing wrong with the plane or the flight crew which might have otherwise explained the crash

All members of the flight crew were properly trained and qualified, and there is no evidence to suggest they handled the aeroplane inappropriately or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Until the point air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane, it was flying in a smooth, steady pattern as expected.

The plane had to take a slight diversion due to storms, but investigators found weather played no role in causing the crash Credit: ITV News

Weather had no influence, despite the plane being forced to take a slight diversion due to storms, and there was no pre-existing damage to the plane which could have caused it to come down.

The chances of an on-board fire or fuel tank explosion, the detonation of a bomb on-board, lightning strike, or being hit by a meteor or other space debris were also analysed and dismissed based on the evidence available.

  • Ukraine had recently changed its flight altitude restrictions but we don't know why

Before July 14 - three days before MH17 was hit - Ukrainian authorities had a limit to civil aviation from the ground up to 26,000ft.

This enabled military aeroplanes to fly at an altitude considered safe from attacks from the ground, as well as eliminating the risk they would run into passenger jets - which were forced to fly above the 26,000ft limit.

MH17 was flying above the restricted zone when it was hit Credit: ITV News

But on July 14, they increased it to a 32,000ft - and the underlying reason for this decision "remains unclear", the report states.

MH17 had been flying at 33,000ft when it was hit - well above what would have been considered safe, given these restrictions, the report states.

  • Ukraine had not closed off its airspace despite the conflict

Flight operators should be able to rely on countries to close its airspace if it is considered unsafe - however, authorities in Ukraine had left its airspace unrestricted.

The report concludes that states involved in conflict of any kind should consider closing its airspace as a precaution, acknowledging the development of high-powered weaponry which could be used to target planes.

Operators themselves should also take responsibility for gathering information on the risks associated with any of its flight paths, the report adds.

Flights over Ukraine on the day of the MH1 crash Credit: Flightrader24
  • Only one operator had decided to avoid flying over Ukraine

Only one operator had made the decision to avoid flying over Ukraine because of the growing unrest in the country.

On the day of the crash alone, 160 flights were conducted above the eastern part of Ukraine - until airspace was closed in the wake of the missile hit.

Three flights were actually in the vicinity of MH17 when it was shot down.