The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), in a report released on Tuesday, has concluded that the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed after being hit by a Buk missile. While the report does not point fingers at anyone, the investigators have asked why the civilian aircraft was allowed to fly over a conflict zone.
The missile exploded less than a metre from the cockpit and destroyed the front of the aircraft, the report says. The explosion killed the pilots instantly and "hundreds" of metal pieces were found in the fragmented body of the captain, it adds.
The report on its own does not put the blame either on Ukraine or Russia, but notes that the airspace should have been closed, especially as days prior to the incident, at least two Ukrainian helicopters were downed by the Russia-backed rebels.
While the West and Ukraine have squarely blamed the Russian-backed rebels for crashing the Boeing 777, Russia has maintained that the missile was fired from the Ukrainian-controlled territory.
The safety board also noted that after the plane was hit by a 9N314M warhead carrying 9M38-series at 33,000 feet, the aircraft took one and half minutes to hit the ground.
The investigators could not determine at which point the passengers died, but said it was a possibility that some were conscious when the plane crashed.
The Malaysian plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur -- when it crashed in a rebel-held eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on 17 July 2014 -- at the height of the conflict between the government troops and the pro-Russian separatists. Among the victims were 196 Dutch nationals and 10 Britons.
While the report does not answer who shot down MH17, a second criminal investigation by the Dutch prosecutor's office is scheduled to conclude its finding early in 2016.
Animation video shows the moment MH17 was hit by the BUK missile