Flight #MH17 crash: What we know and what is yet to be confirmed

18 July-2014, WSP: In the hours since the news broke about the crashed passenger jet, there has been a flurry of unconfirmed reports, unclear information and numerous theories. Here is what we know so far about the jet — as well as what we don’t know.

Flight #MH17 crash: What we know and what is yet to be confirmed

Flight #MH17 crash: What we know and what is yet to be confirmed

A part of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines plane. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

What we know so far:

  • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing 777, was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
  • There were 295 people on board (280 passengers, 15 crew members), according to the airline.
  • Flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, about 50 kilometers from the Ukraine-Russia border. (Here’s a look at where the plane went down.)
  • Malaysia Prime Minsiter Mohd Najib Tun Rakaz released a statement saying the Malaysian government is launching an investigation.
  • President Obama was briefed on the plane crash. Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, and during this conversation Putin mentioned early reports about the passenger jet, the White House said.
  • Airlines have begun avoiding Ukrainian airspace.
  • This flight was traveling along a route it had regularly used on a daily basis in recent weeks. (Flights over conflict zones are actually common. The Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. carriers from flying over certain areas above Crimea and the Black Sea, but this zone did not appear to include the area where the jet went down. “It’s an established route…It’s not a no-fly zone,” Robert Benzon, a retired lead investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board, told The Washington Post.)
  • If the plane was shot down — and this has not been confirmed — it would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane getting shot down in recent memory.

What we don’t know yet:

  • What happened? An adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister wrote on Facebook that a Buk antiaircraft missile system in territory held by pro-Russian rebels shot down the plane. This has not been confirmed. He blamed the rebels for this attack; they denied responsibility, instead blaming the Ukrainian government. So we do not know yet if the plane was actually shot down and, if so, by whom.
  • The death toll. While Malaysia Airlines said there were 295 people on the flight, Reuters reported that more than 300 people were killed, citing an Interfax report.
  • Were any U.S. citizens on the plane? That is unclear right now. Reuters also reported that 23 people on the plane were U.S. citizens, but this has not been confirmed. Obama said the U.S. is working to see if any of citizens were on the plane.
  • What will this mean for the conflict in the region? If the plane was, in fact, shot down, this may only further inflame the fighting in the tense region.