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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Crash: What We Know

Map showing the flight path of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
Alyson Hurt NPR
Map showing the flight path of Malaysia Airlines MH17.

Indian school children hold candles and prayer messages for those killed in the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Diptendu Dutta AFP/Getty Images
Indian school children hold candles and prayer messages for those killed in the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

One day after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, investigators are working to learn more about the crash – and who might be responsible. The passenger jet had nearly 300 people on board; none survived.

The plane had not sent a distress signal. It reportedly came apart at cruising altitude, with its wreckage landing in territory held by pro-Russian insurgents. It's widely suspected that a surface-to-air missile brought it down.

Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai says the flight was following its normal flight path — one that other airlines use, as well. In a news conference Friday, he also said the Boeing 777 had no reported mechanical problems.

Of the flight routes over eastern Ukraine, NPR's David Schaper reports, "There had been no warnings about that area from the FAA, nor from the U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization." David adds that the airspace over Crimea, which seceded from Ukraine earlier this year, has been under restrictions since April.

Investigators from the FBI and NTSB will reportedly help analyze the crash — President Obama offered that assistance to Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko in a phone call on Thursday.

The two leaders also agreed that it was crucial that wreckage from the crash not be disturbed. Parts of the crash site are still smoldering today; photos from the scene show parts of the plane and personal items scattered around open fields.

We'll update this post as news comes in; here's a quick update on what we know about the situation:

  • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur carrying 298 people (early reports that 295 people were on board were updated with the news that three infants were among the passengers).
  • The Boeing 777 went down in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, which for months has been a focal point of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine's central government.
  • U.S. officials tell NPR the airliner was likely shot down by a surface-to-air missile and that they're working to determine who fired it.
  • Kiev officials accuse the separatists of firing a missile at the jet. The separatists, Ukraine's military, and Russia have all denied any involvement.
  • The separatists have promised to aid the investigation, reportedly planning a three-day truce to allow investigators to reach the wreckage.
  • More than half of the flight's passengers were from the Netherlands. The U.S. is trying to determine if any Americans were on board.
  • The FAA has barred all U.S. flights from using the airspace over eastern Ukraine. The agency notes that no U.S. airlines have been flying routes there.
  • The plane's passengers included roughly 100 people who had been traveling to a major global AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. The activists and researchers included former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.

The crash has sparked international shock and outrage, with President Obama and other world leaders calling it a tragedy. Others, such as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, add that the crash "is not an accident, it is a crime." Ukraine's Poroshenko is calling it an act of terrorism.
The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency session today to discuss the incident.

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