The crash of an airliner full of passengers is a major disaster under any circumstances. For a commercial plane to be shot down in a war zone only compounds the tragedy. On July 17, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed near the Ukraine-Russia border, killing all 298 passengers and crew. The plane was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, traveling at 33,000 feet, when it was hit by the explosion of a surface-to-air missile. The vast majority of those who perished were Dutch citizens, though many Malaysians and Australians were also on board.
The crash in the Donetsk region of Ukraine is still under investigation, but it is widely believed that the airliner was recklessly targeted by Russian-backed rebels who are fighting the Ukrainian government. The rebels may have mistaken the Boeing 777 for a government aircraft. Each side in the conflict has blamed the other, and determining exactly what happened will be extremely difficult. However, the rebels had recently obtained advanced weaponry from Russia, including SA-11s, known as Buks, which have the range to shoot down an aircraft at high altitudes.
The crash site is being investigated by experts from Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, among others. Debris is strewn over a 10-mile diameter across three Ukrainian villages, creating major investigators. Reportedly the flight data recorders were recovered and turned over by the rebels to the Malaysian authorities. Routes like that of Flight 17 over the conflict zone are no longer being used by commercial airlines; however, at the time, the route was a commonly used one. There were a number of other flights in the air over Ukraine at the time Flight 17 was shot down. In that week alone there had been dozens of flights by Aeroflot, Singapore Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Lufthansa, as well as Malaysia Airlines.
Image credit: © REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images
- MH17 Malaysia Plane Crash in Ukraine: What We Know
This article provides an overview of the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine; includes maps, graphics, and photos.
(Source: BBC News, July 25, 2014)
- Map of a Tragedy: How MH17 Came Apart Over Ukraine
This amazing collection of photographs and maps detail the “debris field” from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine, showing wreckage spread out over 10 miles across three villages.
(Source: Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2014)
- Malaysian Plane Shot Down in Ukraine: What Happened?
This article, from just two days after the crash, relates what was known early on.
(Source: CNN News, July 19, 2014)
- Forensic Investigators Begin Work at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash Site in Ukraine
This article discusses the work of the international team of investigators that finally gained access to the crash site.
(Source: Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2014)