Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of “high-energy objects” from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
Flight 17 came down in eastern Ukraine on July 17 in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Of the 298 people killed, around two-thirds were Dutch.
The U.S. and Ukraine have accused pro-Russian separatists operating in the region of downing the plane with a missile.
The crash site in the war-torn region was left unsecured amid the unrest, but the Dutch Safety Board report found “no evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorders.”
The report, which doesn’t assign blame for the crash, said there was no sign of any audible alerts or of any malfunction or worries communicated between the crew on the flight data recorders.
The Boeing 777 “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside,” a press release accompanying the report said.
“There are no indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by actions of the crew,” the statement said.
The separatists, who deny responsibility for bringing down the plane, took control of the crash site for weeks, combing through the wreckage and hindering access to investigators.
The Dutch report noted continuing problems visiting the site amid the unstable situation in eastern Ukraine.
“Coordinated access to the wreckage site by the international team of air safety investigators has not yet been possible,” it said. “It is the intention of the Dutch Safety Board to visit the site whenever it is possible to safely conduct further investigation of the wreckage.”
The report set out a list of areas that need further investigation, including forensic examination of wreckage and any foreign objects found.