MH17: Why was passenger wearing oxygen mask?

MH17 crashes in eastern Ukraine

Crash victim with oxygen mask around his neck raises questions about what MH17 passengers knew

LAST UPDATED AT 09:05 ON Fri 10 Oct 2014

The body of a passenger who died on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was found wearing an oxygen mask, Dutch prosecutors have said, raising questions about whether some passengers and crew were conscious as their plane went down.

The passenger, an Australian, was found with the oxygen mask around his neck rather than secured to his face, investigators noted. Experts subsequently analysed the mask "for fingerprints, saliva and DNA and that did not produce any results, so it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim," Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch agency investigating the incident, said.

No other bodies were found wearing oxygen masks, De Bruin confirmed.

All 298 passengers and crew onboard the flight were killed when flight MH17 crashed on 17 July in the border region between Ukraine and Russia. Many in the West suspect pro-Russian separatists of shooting the plane down by accident, but Moscow blames Ukraine for the disaster.

A preliminary report concluded that the plane had been "punctured by high-energy objects" – a finding consistent with the plane having been shot down by a rocket, possibly from a Buk missile launcher.

De Bruin said he had informed the victim's family, but news of the oxygen mask only became known to the families of other victims when the Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, who suggested in an interview on a TV talk show this week that the passenger had secured the mask to his face.

Timmermans said that it was unlikely that the passengers saw a missile coming, but that the discovery of the mask-wearing passenger indicated that at least one person had remained conscious in the moments after the plane had been hit.

"No, they did not see the missile coming, but did you know that someone was found with an oxygen mask over his mouth? So someone had the time to do that," he said.

After hearing the foreign minister's comments, some relatives of victims began calling investigators on Thursday for more information, The Guardian reports.

The foreign ministry subsequently issued a statement apologising for the comments.

"I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the next-of-kin," Timmermans said. "The last thing I want to do is compound their suffering in this way."

Flight MH17: Mystery donor offers £18m reward for information

18 September

An anonymous benefactor has offered a $30m (£18.4m) reward for information on the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine.

The donor has hired the German private investigation firm Wifka to find out who was responsible for the crash that killed all 298 people on board in July.  

"Whoever provides evidence that identifies those behind the shoot down, will be given the reward of 30 million dollars," the company said, according to the German business magazine Capital.

It is believed to be the largest bounty in history, surpassing the $25 million offered by the US government in 2010 for information leading to the capture of Osama Bin Laden.

"Everyone can be bought. It’s just a question of how much," said the company director Josef Resch.

Wifka has advised those with valuable information to "take care" and contact the company through a lawyer.  "Details should not be given away lightly," said the agency.

According to Wifca, the funds are already in a bank in Zurich and the whistleblower will be provided with a new identity if necessary.

Russian separatists have been widely blamed for shooting down the plane, a claim they deny.

A preliminary report on the crash revealed that Flight MH17 was 'punctured by high-energy objects' in mid-air. The official investigation continues.

Flight MH17 'punctured by high-energy objects' in mid-air

09 September

Dutch experts investigating the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 believe "a large number of high-energy objects" hit the aircraft, causing it to break up in mid-air.

A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board found no indication of any technical or operational issues with the crew or aircraft, which crashed in rebel-held territory of eastern Ukraine on 17 July.

All 298 people on board died.

Ukraine's government and the US believe pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with a Buk missile launcher.

The plane's black boxes revealed no signs of an emergency situation in the final moments of the flight and no distress calls were made to air traffic control, says the Dutch Safety Board.

"The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until 13:20:03 (UTC), after which it ended abruptly," says the report.

Transcripts of air traffic control's radio communications demonstrate the confusion on the ground, as they first ask why the plane is not responding to their calls before stating: "It's disappeared."

Photographs show that the pieces of wreckage were pierced in numerous places. "The pattern of damage to the aircraft fuselage and the cockpit is consistent with that which may be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside," say the investigators. "It's likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up."

The BBC's Anna Holligan says the findings are significant because they are the first official account of what happened. A separate criminal investigation is being conducted by prosecutors in The Hague, although a full forensic search of the site has been stalled by heavy fighting in the area.

The Dutch Safety Board's full report, expected in mid-2015, is likely to determine more precisely what caused the crash and how the plane disintegrated.

Flight MH17: Malaysia mourns lost victims 

22 August 

Malaysia has declared its first ever national day of mourning as the bodies of 20 victims of the MH17 crash were brought home.

A ceremony was held as the plane carrying the bodies from Amsterdam touched down in Kuala Lumpur at about 10am local time today, The Independent reports.

The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the country’s King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah joined victims' families as coffins draped in the Malaysian flag were driven from the tarmac to private funerals. People around the country observed a minute's silence as the procession of hearses left the airport.

A total of 43 of the country's citizens died on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it crashed in July. After the tortuous process of retrieving the remains from war-torn Ukraine, the bodies were held in the Netherlands while Dutch forensic experts attempted to verify their identities.

All 298 passengers and crew onboard the flight were killed when flight MH17 crashed in fields near the Russia-Ukraine border. Many in the West suspect pro-Russian separatists of shooting the plane down, but Moscow blames Ukraine for the disaster.

"Today we mourn the loss of our people," Prime Minister Najib said in a statement. "Today, we begin to bring them home. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Today we stand with you, united as one."

The funeral for 28-year-old Newcastle United fan Liam Sweeney, the first Briton to be identified from the wreckage of flight MH17, took place last Thursday. Hundreds attended the funeral at St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle, including Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew and the club's captain, Fabricio Coloccini.


Flight MH17: 80 bodies still at Malaysia Airlines crash site

31 July

Up to 80 bodies are still believed to be at the Flight MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, two weeks after the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed.

The report comes amid growing fears in the West that Russia has been "actively undermining" the international investigation into how the aircraft crashed. Pro-Russian separatists are accused of shooting down the plane on 17 July, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

Australian and Dutch investigators reportedly reached the crash site today after four days of failed attempts. Heavy fighting between Ukraine forces and the rebels has repeatedly forced the experts to abandon their search for remains and evidence.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said that a new report suggesting up to 80 bodies are yet to be found had made the investigators even more determined to gain access.

The investigation team is also keen to retrieve a large collection of personal items belonging to the victims from a morgue in the rebel-stronghold of Donetsk.

"It's heartbreaking. It's so distressing," she said yesterday after a fourth attempt to gain access failed. "We have the team in place, we have the experts ready to work, and we can't get to the site." 

She said her "great fear" was that Russia was "actively undermining this process".

But the Ukraine government has agreed to a day-long pause in fighting following a plea from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It has also granted permission for investigators to carry weapons as a protective measure. Bishop tweeted today that the party of experts had finally made it onto the site. 

The Australian foreign minister said she was also aware of claims from the Ukrainian military that rebels had been laying land mines on roads through the crash site. "I don't know if those reports are confirmed," she told ABC radio. "If that is true, it is utterly despicable."


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