Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was likely struck by multiple “high energy objects from outside the aircraft,” causing it to break up over eastern Ukraine, a preliminary report into the deadly aviation disaster concluded on Tuesday.
The report by the Dutch Safety Board stopped short of saying the Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile, but its findings appear to point to that conclusion. It also did not say who might have been responsible.
“The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high energy objects from outside the aircraft,” the report said. “It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.”
The board is leading the international investigation into the cause of the disaster. Its full report is expected within a year of the crash.
“The initial results of the investigation point toward an external cause of the MH17 crash,” the board’s chairman, Tjibbe Joustra, said in a statement. “More research will be necessary to determine the cause with greater precision. The Safety Board believes that additional evidence will become available for investigation in the period ahead.”
“Detailed examination of the structural damage is ongoing,” the report said. “Forensic examination will be performed if the wreckage can be removed.”
Investigators so far have studied photos of the crash site, radar data and information gleaned from the downed jet’s “black boxes” its cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. They all indicated that there was no technical fault that may have caused the plane to disintegrate.
The cockpit voice recorder “revealed no signs of any technical faults or an emergency situation,” the Safety Board said. “Neither was any warning tones heard in the cockpit that might have pointed to technical problems.”
The Boeing 777 suddenly plunged out of the sky on July 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.