A child’s jump rope, its yellow handles blistered and charred. A burned book. Chunks of twisted fuselage. More than seven weeks after being shot from the sky, the wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 still lay strewn Tuesday across the fields of eastern Ukraine.
As evidence of the July 17 aviation disaster that killed all 298 people on board remained exposed to the elements, investigators hundreds of miles away in the Netherlands — who have not yet visited the crash site because it is deemed too dangerous — released a preliminary report that left key questions unanswered.
The plane had no mechanical or other technical problem in the seconds before it broke up in the sky after being struck by multiple “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft,” the report said.
There were multiple punctures in the cockpit and front section of the fuselage, it said — damage that could be caused by a missile that detonates in front of its target and peppers it with small chunks of metal. However, investigators did not identify the source of the fragments or say who fired them.
Although the report drew no conclusions about responsibility, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the findings were consistent with “our original assessment, that it was likely shot down by one of these surface-to-air missiles fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.”
“I’m unaware of other objects or ways that it could be brought down that are consistent with that finding,” Harf said of the report. “It highlights questions for which Russia must still answer.”
The slow pace of the inquiry, its cautious preliminary conclusion and the fact that wreckage and human remains are still lying in Ukraine frustrated and angered victims’ families.
“Well, I don’t know what to say about this,” said Samira Calehr, a Dutch mother who lost two sons, 11-year-old Miguel and 19-year-old Shaka, in the crash.
She said that she wants the people responsible for downing the plane brought to justice “as soon as possible,” pausing for emphasis on every word. “I want to know who killed my children.”
Zenaida Ecal, a 53-year-old resident of Pagbilao in the northeastern Philippines who lost her best friend, Irene Gunawan, expressed frustration that the report discloses only what many already knew — that the Malaysian plane came under fire —but fails to identify the perpetrators.
“We just want all of the victims to be found, identified and given a proper burial. We want the perpetrators to be identified and punished. As long as these don’t happen, all the families and friends of the victims will continue to suffer,” Ecal said. “It’s taking so long.”
A separate Dutch-led criminal investigation is underway aimed at bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The report added to a growing body of evidence that pro-Russian rebels were involved.
Just three hours before the plane was shot down above rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, the AP reported on the passage of a BUK M-1 missile system — a machine the size of a tank bearing four ground-to-air missiles — through the rebel-held town of Snizhne near the crash site.
A highly placed rebel officer told the AP in an interview after the disaster that the plane was shot down by a mixed team of rebels and Russian military personnel who believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane. Intercepted phone conversations between the rebels released by the Ukrainian government support that version of events.