A Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people was shot down and crashed today near the Russian border with Ukraine, killing everyone onboard. The Boeing 777, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was struck by a missile above the war-torn region.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Reports of Americans Dead Have Been Denied
Initial reports from Reuters indicated that of the nearly 300 people on board, 23 were U.S. citizens. However, as of Friday morning, only 20 of the passengers’ nationalities have yet to be announced, with no Americans announced so far. President Obama said in a speech in Delaware that investigators were still working to confirm how many Americans were onboard.
Buzzfeed reports that an internal Obama administration email indicates none of the passengers checked in with a U.S. passport.
And this tally from USA Today includes zero Americans:
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 18, 2014
The passport of one passenger, a Dutch doctor named Jolette Nuesink, was found among the wreckage.
— Lin Housman (@LinHousman) July 17, 2014
The nationalities of 278 passengers that have been announced bread down as follows:
1 New Zealand
One passenger, Cor Pan, from the Netherlands, left an ominous Facebook message just prior to boarding:
The message joked that he was posting a photo of the plane in case it “disappeared,” a reference to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Cor Pan was on the flight with his wife.
2. The United States Confirms That the Plane Was Shot Down by a Surface-to-Air Missile
Anton Geraschenko, an advisor in the Ukraine Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists armed with Russia’s Buk missile system, described in the video below. It’s capable of striking targets up to 60,000 feet; the Malaysia flight was struck at its cruising altitude of 33,000 feet.
Sergey Kavtaradze, a representative of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said “We have only MANPADs (portable anti-aircraft missile complex), which hit targets at 3-4 kilometers.”
But an intercepted phone call between Russian separatists shows members of the People’s Republic of Donetsk‘s surprise at the news that they shot down a passenger flight. The members say that they had intended to hit a Ukrainian troop transport plane.
Separatists told RT that their “self-defense forces just don’t have such military equipment.” However, on July 14, a Ukrainian military cargo plane was struck by a missile at 22,000 feet, and a press release from the U.S. State department indicated that the Russian military were supplying separatists with “heavy weaponry.” Russian forces were accused of downing the cargo plane, but Moscow called these claims “absurd.”
Jonathan Beale, the BBC’s defense expert, said it would take a surface-to-air missile, guided by radar, to shoot down a plane at 33,000 feet. The only other possibility, Beale says, would be that the plane was shot down by a jet carrying air-to-air missiles.
The Ukrainian president, Petro Porochenko, said “Armed forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets.”
— legionar (@MatevzNovak) July 17, 2014
3. Bodies Are Scattered for Miles Around the Crash Site
There were 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board the flight. The plane was flying from Amsterdam from Kuala Lumpur. The flight was traveling at 33,000 feet. The plane left Amsterdam at 12:17 p.m. local time and had been due to arrive in Malaysia at 6:10 a.m. Malaysian time. According to Flight Aware, the plane was traveling at 560 miles per hour.
Anton Geraschenko, an advisor in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said on his Facebook page, that all 295 people on board have died. Reuters reports that body parts are scattered up to 10 miles away from crash site.
— legionar (@MatevzNovak) July 17, 2014
Noah Sneider a reporter with the New York Times tweeted that a separatist fighter told him “I’ve never seen anything like it. You look down and see ears, fingers, bones.”
Debris and cargo were also found for miles. Here is the complete released cargo manifest from the ship, including several live animals:
4. Russian Separatists Are Believed to Have the Plane’s Black Box
According to witnesses on scene, the plane’s black box has been recovered by Russian separatists. This means that the recorder will likely be brought to Moscow to be analyzed, not Kiev. The Russian separatists are https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/489849034862264320 to be seeking a three day ceasefire in the wake of the crash.
An area that were fighting took place between Russian separatists and Ukrainian military.
— Jaideep Pandey (@PandeyJaideep) July 17, 2014
Lufthansa, the German airline, has said that it will not fly over Ukrainian airspace until further notice. The Washington Post reports that the flight was on the same flightpath it takes every day and did not deviate. Air France has also said it will avoid the airspace. The FAA warned U.S. airlines not to fly over the region back in April 2014. Igor Girkin, a local sepratist leader posted on the Russian version of Facebook, “We did warn you – do not fly in our sky.”
5. The Plane Never Entered Russian Airspace
Reuters reports that the plane did not enter Russian airspace when expected. Malaysia Airlines has said it lost contact with the flight. The Associated Press reports that President Obama has been briefed on the crash and that he has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama had been scheduled to talk with Putin anyway, regarding new sanctions. The Malaysian President Najib Razak said ‘I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.” Later it was reported that Razak was en route to Ukraine. AFP reports that the British Foreign Office is “working urgently to find out what happened.”
Last reported position log was as of 1:20 PM UTC pic.twitter.com/mwXGSplXU9
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) July 17, 2014