Final MH17 Report Released

13 October 2015, 17:55

John Alder and Liam Sweeney Newcastle United MH17

The final report into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 has been published by investigators.

Dutch investigators revealed the plane was brought down by a Russian-made missile.

Now there's calls from the families of the victims for Russian president Vladimir Putin to speak to them.

The warhead exploded just outside the cockpit of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 as it passed over fighting in eastern Ukraine last July, causing the front of the plane to shear off.

John Alder, in his 60s, from Gateshead, was a lifelong Newcastle United supporter who was travelling to see the club play on a pre-season tour of New Zealand.

28 year old Liam Sweeney, was also travelling to see Newcastle United's pre-season tour.

A major inquiry by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) did not place any blame but has indicated the Russian-made Buk was fired from a 320km square area, where, it is known, pro-Russian separatists were active.

For their part, Russian experts have blamed Ukrainian government forces for firing the missile.

Tracey Withers, whose brother Glenn Thomas, originally from Blackpool, was among the 10 Britons who died, told ITV News that if Mr Putin had time to call Elton John, he should make the effort to speak to grieving relatives. The Russian leader had spoken to the star about gay rights.

The report had some comfort for families, after it reported that passengers and crew on the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight would have died swiftly after the explosion. 

The DSB said there were lessons for the aviation industry to learn about flying over war zones.

There were 160 planes which flew over eastern Ukraine that day, and three others were in the area when it was brought down.

In the previous days several military aircraft had been shot down at lower altitude. Air space above 32,000ft was open to commercial flights.

Outlining the report findings, DSB chairman Tjibbe Joustra said: ``Every single one of those operators thought that was safe,'' he said.

The report recommended that countries where armed conflict was taking place should do more to ensure air safety and carriers should be more transparent about the routes they use.

In response, the British Airline Pilots' Association called for greater international co-operation on no fly zones.

Flight MH17's tail probably fell to the ground first, with the central section flipping over and catching fire on impact, the DSB said.

Debris was scattered over a 50km area on the ground where fighting between rebel separatists and government troops was going on.

Experts reconstructed the sections of the front of the plane at the Gilze-Rijen air base in the Netherlands.

An animation showed the route the doomed plane took, how it changed course to avoid a thunderstorm, then demonstrated how the front section sheared away after impact.

The issue of who fired the missile will be dealt with later by prosecutors.

After the findings were released, Prime Minister David Cameron, said:
"We have always been clear that justice must be done for all of the victims of MH17 and today's report brings us one step closer to establishing the truth.

We, alongside our partners, will continue to send a clear message; those responsible for downing this plane will be held to account.''


UPDATED 13th October 2015 - 6am

The team of investigators, led by the Dutch Safety Board, has spent the past 15 months examining the shooting down of the Boeing 777 over Ukraine in which 298 people were killed.

The report will focus on four distinct aspects of the crash: the cause, the extent to which the passengers on board were conscious of the crash, the issue of flying over conflict areas and, finally, the question over why Dutch victims' relatives had to wait two to four days before receiving confirmation from Dutch authorities that their loved ones were on board.

The investigation is not tasked with portioning blame or liability for the crash although it is possible that other conclusions could indirectly indicate blame.

The plane was travelling from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in Ukraine on 17th July 2014 as it flew over heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

It is widely believed that the plane was brought down by a missile. 

Relatives of those who died will be able to visit the reconstruction and hope that the investigation will answer some of their questions.

One of those people will be Barry Sweeney from Killingworth, dad of Liam Sweeney, who was on his way to New Zealand to see Newcastle United play in a pre season friendly.

He's been speaking to Heart ahead of the release of the report: 


The airline industry will focus on a separate part of the investigation's conclusions: the issue of flying over areas of known conflict.

At the time of the crash, Malaysia Airlines were quick to point out that 15 out of 16 airlines in the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines used the same route over Ukraine.

European airlines also used the route and in the hours before the incident, a number of other passenger aircraft from different carriers had used the same route.

If the investigation conclusions do point to the involvement of a Russian supplied missile, it will further sour relations between Russia and the West which are particularly low following Russian military involvement in the Syria conflict.

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