Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was destroyed by a Buk surface-to-air missile, the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board has confirmed.
Tjibbe Joustra sat before a ghostly reconstruction of the forward section of the aircraft as he delivered the conclusions of the official 15-month investigation in The Hague on Tuesday.
Some of the nose, cockpit and business class of the Boeing 777, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, have been rebuilt from fragments of the aircraft recovered from the crash scene.
Dutch Safety Board Chairman Tjibbe Joustra confirms MH17 was downed by a Buk surface missile
The room fell silent as the reassembled wreckage, much of it twisted and riddled with holes, was presented.
The Dutch investigators said the missile exploded less than a metre from the MH17 cockpit, killing three crew in the cockpit and breaking off the front of the plane. The aircraft broke up in the air and crashed over a large area controlled by rebel separatists who had been fighting government troops there since April 2014.
Tuesday's report does not apportion blame for the incident, but stated airspace over Eastern Ukraine should have been closed. At least 38 other international flights flew over the area on the day.
- Chilling Animation Of The Moment MH17 Was Hit By A Buk Missile
- 'Russian BUK Missile Parts' Found At Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash Site
- Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash Site Could Have Already Been Tampered With
- Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Passenger Published Video On Board Doomed Jet
- Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans Gives Perfect Response To Horror Of MH17
The board said the plane should never have been flying there as Ukraine should have closed its airspace to civil aviation, adding that nobody gave a thought to the dangers to passenger planes.
Investigators found that the 298 passengers and crews would have died very soon after it exploded.
Grieving father Barry Sweeney, whose 28-year-old son Liam was on board, told the BBC the Russian-made Buk missile exploded, hitting the cockpit first, killing the pilots.
The aircraft was downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17 last year
That would have caused disorientation and confusion in the rest of the plane, he said.
"Hopefully most people were unconscious by the time this happened and death would have occurred pretty quick," he said.
"That is a comfort for 298 sets of relatives."
Sweeney's son was travelling from Newcastle with his friend John Alder to watch their beloved Newcastle United play in a pre-season tour of New Zealand.
Ten of those who died in the disaster over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine were British.
BUK surface-to-air missile system, the same type of missile believed to have been used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17 (stock photo)
The news comes as the Russian maker of the weapon says its own probe contradicts the Dutch findings.
Ukraine and Western countries contend the airliner was downed by a missile fired by Russia-backed rebels or Russian forces, from rebel-controlled territory. Moscow has rejected accusations it supplied the rebels with the weaponry.
In July Russia vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that would have set up an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing the jet.
Eleven countries on the 15-member council voted in favor of the proposal by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine, while three countries abstained: China, Angola and Venezuela. A resolution needs nine votes in favor to pass and no veto by Russia, the United States, China, Britain or France.
However, a statement from the Russian state-controlled Almaz-Antey arms-maker said a draft of the Dutch report found the plane was shot down by a Buk missile warhead that uses submunitions shaped like a capital letter I.
Almaz-Antey says it conducted two experiments - in one of which a Buk missile was detonated near the nose of an airplane similar to a 777 - that contradict that conclusion.
The experimental aircraft's remains showed a much different submunitions damage pattern than seen on the remnants of MH17, the company said in a statement.
The experiments also refute what it said was the Dutch version, that the missile was fired from Snizhne, a village that was under rebel control. An Associated Press reporter saw a Buk missile system in that vicinity on the same day.
Almaz-Antey in June had said that a preliminary investigation suggested that the plane was downed by a model of Buk that is no longer in service with the Russian military but that was part of the Ukrainian military arsenal.
Information from the first experiment, in which a missile was fired at aluminum sheets mimicking an airliner's fuselage, was presented to the Dutch investigators, but was not taken into account, Almaz-Antey chief Yan Novikov said at a news conference.
Novikov said evidence shows that if the plane was hit by a Buk, it was fired from the village of Zaroshenske, which Russia says was under Ukrainian government control at the time.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the draft report said the plane was destroyed by a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from the village of Snizhne; the official who was not authorised to comment publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Many reports, including an investigation by the open-source group Bellingcat, also suggest the plane was downed by a missile fired from near Snizhne.
Victims of MH17