Main findings in the MH17 air disaster

Gilze-Rijen (Netherlands) (AFP) - Air crash investigators on Tuesday said a BUK missile fired from eastern Ukraine ripped through Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last year killing all 298 people on board.

The final report into the July 17, 2014 disaster was released after a 15-month investigation by an international team led by the Dutch Safety Board.

Here are some of the main findings:

- Cause of the disaster -

The crash of flight MH17 was caused by the detonation of a 9N314M-type warhead launched from the eastern part of Ukraine using a BUK missile system.

At 1320 GMT the missile, launched from a 320-square-kilometre (120 sq miles) area in eastern Ukraine, approached the plane almost head-on as it was flying at some 33,000 feet (10,000 metres) and detonated to the left and above the cockpit.

The forward section of the aircraft was penetrated by hundreds of high-energy objects. Three crew members in the cockpit were killed immediately and the airplane broke up in the air.

Business class tore away from the fuselage almost instantly and crashed, the rest of the plane flew another 8.5 kilometres (five miles) before plunging to the ground. A fierce fire broke out in the centre of the plane and engines when they hit the ground. Wreckage was distributed over various sites within an area of 50 square kilometres.

The investigators explicitly ruled out that the disaster was caused by metal fatigue or existing damage to the plane. That it was the result of an exploding fuel tank, a fire or explosives on board. Nor was it hit by lightning or a meteor.

- Final moments -

While many of the passengers likely died almost instantaneously, investigators did not rule out that some "remained conscious for some time" during the minute to 90 seconds that it took for the plane to crash.

However, since the missile strike was "entirely unexpected ... there was hardly any time for a conscious response."

Some of the passengers and crew sustained "severe injuries" which likely killed them before the stricken plane crashed. And while the investigators could not say for sure "at which exact moment occupants died, it is certain that the impact on the ground was not survivable."

- Why was a plane flying over a war zone? -

The investigators rapped Ukrainian authorities for failing to close the air space over the conflict zone in the east of the country.

Some 160 commercial aircraft also flew over the same region on the day of the disaster.

Yet days earlier two Ukrainian air force planes had been brought down at altitudes of 6,200 metres and 6,500 metres with powerful weapons systems.

"Ukraine did not adequately identify the risks to civil aviation," the report says. While there were some restrictions on civil aviation, they were not enough to protect aircraft from such systems.

It also adds that none of the aviation parties involved had properly recognised the risks of flying over eastern Ukraine.

- Recommendations -

The report makes 11 recommendations including that nations in conflict should ensure they close their air space in a timely manner.

Airlines should carry out their own risk assessment and share information.

The investigators called on the International Civil Aviation Organisation to play a role in requiring airlines to account for the routes they select which pass over conflict zones.

It also found that Dutch crisis authorities had "failed to function properly and the government authorities involved lacked direction" after some relatives had to wait four days for confirmation that their loved ones were on board.

Therefore it proposed that a person's nationality should be automatically added to passenger lists.