When Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down near the Ukrainian-Russian border on July 18, 298 people were killed flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Who shot down the airplane and why has yet to be definitively determined, but it has been confirmed that the aircraft was destroyed by a surface to air missile. It is believed that the missile was fired by Russian backed separatists in Ukraine, however an official investigation is still underway. The missile is assumed to be a BUK anti-aircraft missile which caused the plane to be completely destroyed and break apart while still in flight.
The missile impacted the plane and broke it apart. As it came down pieces of the airliner as well as luggage and bodies were spread over the countryside. Every one of the 298 people on board MH17 was killed and the nearby morgue cannot handle that many bodies. Even with the recent violence in the region, there has never been a crash or disaster of this scale, nothing with a body count this high. Due to these logistical problems authorities are facing difficulties in returning the remains of passengers to their loved ones. Further increasing the tragic challenge is that the flight was carrying people from all over the world, including men, women, and children from the Netherlands, Australia, the United States, and of course Malaysia.
While blame cannot yet be officially placed, Twitter has seen many posts by separatists in Ukraine with pictures of at least one BUK missile system with messages about shooting down a plane right around the time that MH17 was destroyed. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has already placed blame on Ukraine, but in a press conference, American President Barack Obama pointed out that the Malaysian Airlines flight was lost over territory known to be controlled by Russian backed rebels. If the Russian government does not exert its influence to corral the rebels onto a peaceful path then further sanctions could be placed on Russia. If the rebels are proven to have fired the missile that destroyed flight MH17, at the very least more immediate pressure will be put on Putin and all of the Russian government.
While politicians and investigators from around the world search for answers and eventually some form of justice, the residents of eastern Ukraine must still deal with the burning wreckage and the tragic carnage of broken bodies strewn about their countryside. Investigators must still attempt to collect the passports of all the passengers aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur along with their personal belongings that families hope to have shipped home along with the bodies of their lost loved ones.
Regardless of blame or the political motivation of the attack, 298 innocent lives were lost and they and their families are the priorities of initial efforts following the crash. World leaders are urging restraint when jumping to conclusions or assumptions based off of incomplete information, so the facts must be found in order to bring closure to grieving family members around the world. More information will become available as more investigators arrive in Ukraine and begin their work.
By Matt Isaacs