Malaysian Passenger Jet Shot Down Over Ukraine: Searching The Wr - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Malaysian Passenger Jet Shot Down Over Ukraine: Searching The Wreckage

Posted: Updated:
Rozsynpe, Ukraine - 9:15PM UPDATE 7/18:

Emergency workers, police, and volunteers combing through fields strewn with plane parts, luggage, and charred souvenirs have found 181 bodies at the crash site of a Malaysian Airlines plane shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday.  

Workers at the scene Friday faced a grisly search for victims and wreckage of Malaysia Air Flight 17, blown up by a surface-to-air missile as it flew above eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.     

The Boeing 777 bound for Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam was shot down Thursday afternoon at cruising altitude about 35 miles from the border, according to Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister.

Pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government-- who have engaged in deadly battles in several cities of eastern Ukraine in recent months-- traded charges about who was responsible for the tragedy.

President Obama said Friday at least one American was among the passengers killed aboard the flight, and said the plane appears to have been downed by a missile launched from Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine's government, the pro-Russia rebels who oppose it and Russia have all denied shooting down the passenger plane.

Emergency workers in contact with officials in Kiev say 181 bodies have been recovered from the crash site, of the 283 passengers and 15 crew members aboard the flight. Ukraine Foreign Ministry representative Andriy Sybiga said the bodies will be taken to Kharkiv, a government-controlled city 170 miles to the north, for identification.

The search area was spread out over fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine -- Rozsypne and Hrabove -- and fighting apparently still continued nearby. In the distance, the thud of Grad missile launchers being fired could be heard Friday morning.

In the sunflower fields around Rozsypne, 25 miles from the Russian border, lines of men disappeared into the thick, tall growth that was over their heads. One fainted after finding a body. Another body was covered in a coat.

In Hrabove, several miles away, huge numbers of simple sticks, some made from tree branches, were affixed with red or white rags to mark spots where body parts were found.

Among the debris were watches and smashed mobile phones, charred boarding passes and passports.  An "I (heart) Amsterdam" T-shirt and a guidebook to Bali hinted at holiday plans.

Large chunks of the Boeing 777 that bore the airline's red, white and blue markings lay strewn over one field. The cockpit and one turbine lay a half-mile apart, and the tail landed six miles away.  One rebel militiaman in Rozsypne told The Associated Press that the plane's fuselage showed signs of being struck by a projectile.

Malaysia Airlines said the passengers included 189 Dutch, 29 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one person each from Canada and New Zealand. President Obama confirmed that one American-- Quinn Lucas Schansman, a U.S.-Dutch citizen-- was also on the doomed flight.

Obama called for an immediate ceasefire in the region among Ukraine, Russia and Russian-backed separatists in order to conduct an investigation into the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

"We know they have received steady support from Russia, which includes heavy weapons and training ... and includes anti-aircraft weapons," Obama said.

He noted, though, it wasn't the first time the separatists had shot down planes in the region, adding that a "steady flow of support from Russia" had included heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also called for a cease-fire Friday in eastern Ukraine and urged the two sides to hold peace talks as soon as possible. A day earlier, Putin had blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying the government in Kiev was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he did not accuse Ukraine of shooting the plane down and did not address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels such a powerful missile.

The whereabouts of the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder remained unknown Friday. Separatist rebels who control the crash site issued conflicting reports Friday about whether they had found the plane's black boxes or not.

"No black boxes have been found ... we hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened," said Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai.

Yet earlier Friday, an aide to the military leader of Borodai's group said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices. Since planes usually have two black boxes -- one for recording flight data and the other for recording cockpit voices --  it was not clear what the number 12 referred to.

Russia's foreign minister said his country had no intention of acquiring them and that they should be given to international aviation organizations. Experts in air accident investigations said the boxes' contents could be key to establishing what happened to the Boeing 777 in the moments before it crashed. The thud of a missile hit or the acoustic shock wave emitted by an explosion could have been picked up by the cockpit recorder, they said.

Ukraine has called for an international probe to determine who attacked the plane and the U.S. has offered to help.  But access to the sprawling crash site remained difficult and dangerous. The road from Donetsk, the largest city in the region, to the crash site was marked by five rebel checkpoints Friday, with document checks at each.

Borodai said 17 representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation and four Ukrainian experts had traveled into rebel-controlled areas to begin an investigation into the attack.

FBI and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board personnel are preparing to travel to Ukraine to assist in the investigation of the crash, an official told Reuters Friday.

Ukraine's state aviation service closed the airspace Friday over two border regions gripped by separatist fighting -- Donetsk and Luhansk -- and Russian airlines suspended all flights over Ukraine.

Aviation authorities in several countries, including the FAA in the United States, had issued previous warnings not to fly over parts of Ukraine after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March. Within hours of the crash Thursday, several airlines announced they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 (FOX 11 / AP)10 PM UPDATE: (FOX 11 /AP) A Malaysia Airlines passenger plane carrying 298 people was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the aircraft.

As plumes of black smoke rose up near a rebel-held village of Hrabove, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the wreckage site 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border.The Boeing 777-200ER plane, traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage - which included body parts and the belongings of passengers - was scattered over a wide area.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash. He insisted that his forces did not shoot down the plane.

President Barack Obama called the crash a "terrible tragedy" and talked about it on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The village of Hrabove is currently under the control of pro-Russia separatists and the area has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days.

Aviation authorities in several countries, including the FAA in the United States, had issued warnings not to fly over parts of Ukraine prior to Thursday's crash. Within hours, several airlines, including Lufthansa, Delta and KLM, released statements Thursday saying they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace.

Malaysia Airlines said Ukrainian aviation authorities told the company they had lost contact with Flight MH17 at 1415 GMT (10 a.m. EDT) about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Tamak waypoint, which is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border.

It said the plane was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew members. It had left Amsterdam at 12:15 p.m. and was due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6:10 a.m. Friday.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).

Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems - also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems.

He said Russia had supplied separatist rebels with military hardware, but he had seen no evidence "of the transfer of that type of system from Russia." The weapons that the rebels are known to have do not have the capacity to reach beyond 4,500 meters. (14,750 feet)

A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists earlier Thursday near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, which is held by the rebels.

The Malaysia Airlines plane was delivered to the company on July 30, 1997, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets. It has more than 43,000 hours of flight time and 6,950 takeoffs and landings.

Poroshenko said his country's armed forces didn't shoot at any airborne targets.

"We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," he said. "We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible."

The Kremlin said Putin "informed the U.S. president of the report from air traffic controllers that the Malaysian plane had crashed on Ukrainian territory" without giving further details about their call. The White House confirmed the call.

Separatist leader Andrei Purgin told The Associated Press that he was certain that Ukrainian troops had shot the plane down, but gave no explanation or proof for his statement.

Purgin said he did not know whether rebel forces owned Buk missile launchers, but said even if they did, they had no fighters capable of operating it.

Around the time the plane crashed, Russian media quoted witnesses as saying they saw a plane being hit by what they thought was a rocket.

It was the second time that a Malaysia Airlines plane was lost in less than six months. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean far west of Australia.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had been attending a European Union summit in Brussels, headed back to the Netherlands to deal with fallout from the crash.

There have been several disputes over planes being shot down over eastern Ukraine in recent days.

On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents. Ukraine Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday that Russia did not shoot down the Ukrainian fighter jet on Wednesday. "We didn't do it," Churkin said.

Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely

Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor.

Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday over eastern Ukraine by a missile fired from Russian territory.

Many airlines had continued to use the route despite warnings not to because of the fighting, said Norman Shanks, former head of group security at airports group BAA and professor of aviation security at Coventry University in England.

"It is a busy aviation route and there have been suggestions that a notice was given to aviators telling airlines to avoid that particular area," Shanks said.

"But Malaysia Airlines, like a number of other carriers, have been continuing to use it because it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money."

Flights that were airborne when the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed have been re-routed, transportation officials said.

Other passenger planes have been shot down before including:

- April 20, 1978: Korean Airlines Flight 902, which diverted from its planned course on a flight from Paris to Seoul and strayed over the Soviet Union. After being fired upon by an interceptor aircraft, the crew made a forced landing at night on the surface of a frozen lake. Two of the 97 passengers were killed by the hostile fire.

- Sept. 1, 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shot down by at least one Soviet air-to-air missile after the 747 had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 240 passengers and 29 crew were killed.

- July 3, 1988: Iran Air Flight 655 Aircraft was shot down by a surface to air missile from the American naval vessel U.S.S. Vincennes. All 16 crew and 274 passengers were killed.



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9:45AM UPDATE: Maylasia Airlines has released a media statement on their Facebook page: #?MASalert? - Media Statement 1 - MH17 Incident

Released at 12:30am/18 July 2014 Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day.

The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard.

More details to follow.

-------------------------------------------------------

(FOX 11 / AP) A Ukrainian official said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday over a town in the east of the country, and Malaysia Airlines tweeted that it lost contact with one of its flights over Ukrainian airspace.Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet). He also said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).

The fate of the passengers wasn't immediately known.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country's armed forces didn't shoot at any airborne targets.

"We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," he said. "We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible."

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it "has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace." The plane's destination was Kuala Lumpur.

It was the second time that a Malaysia Airlines plane was lost in less than six months. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean far west of Australia.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said on Twitter there's no confirmation that Thursday's plane was shot down. He said he has instructed the country's military to check and get confirmation.

The Donetsk region government said Thursday's plane crashed near a village called Grabovo, which it said is currently under the control of armed pro-Russian separatists. The region where the flight was lost has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days.

A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, which is held by pro-Russia rebels, earlier Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.

Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely

Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn't be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet and Russia's foreign ministry didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory.

The Malaysia Airlines plane is a Boeing 777-200ER, which was delivered to Malaysia Airlines on July 30, 1997, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets, which sells and tracks information about aircraft. It has more than 43,000 hours of flight time and 6,950 takeoffs and landings.

If the plane was shot down, it would be the fourth commercial airliner to face such a fate. The previous three were:

- April 20, 1978: Korean Airlines Flight 902, which diverted from its planned course on a flight from Paris to Seoul and strayed over the Soviet Union. After being fired upon by an interceptor aircraft, the crew made a forced landing at night on the surface of a frozen lake. Two of the 97 passengers were killed by the hostile fire.

- Sept. 1, 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shot down by at least one Soviet air-to-air missile after the 747 had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 240 passengers and 29 crew were killed.

- July 3, 1988: Iran Air Flight 655 Aircraft was shot down by a surface to air missile from the American naval vessel U.S.S. Vincennes. All 16 crew and 274 passengers were killed.

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