[Peter Paul Media] — A Malaysia Airlines [MAS] plane carrying hundreds of passengers is presumed crashed after losing contact with air traffic controllers, the airline said Thursday.
Flight MH17 departed Schiphol airport in Amsterdam and was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday morning. News reports citing Ukrainian officials said there were 280 passengers and 15 crew members aboard the crashed plane.
The airline confirmed that it lost contact with MH17 about 50 kilometres from the Russia-Ukraine border but it was unclear at press time whether air traffic controllers received any Mayday calls prior to the crash. An Interior Ministry official in Ukraine said that MH17 was hit by a missile fired from a Buk missile launcher.
Malaysia’s Minister of Defence Hishammuddin Hussein said via Twitter that there has been no confirmation that MH17 was shot down but that he has instructed the military to investigate further. The International Air Transport Association said in a statement that it does not appear MH17 was flying in restricted airspace when it crashed.
Russia and Ukraine have been at odds since November 2013, when police began a removal of thousands of protesters at Kyiv’s Independence Square. First pictures posted on Twitter show a large debris field and small fires burning at the crash site with bodies and parts of aircraft strewn across a field.
Amateur video appearing on YouTube.com appears to show the horrific moments following the crash, where black smoke can be seen billowing in the distance. The plane is the same model as the missing MH370 jet which went missing on March 8, a Boeing 777-200 which has yet to be been found.
Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer, confirmed on Twitter that it was aware of reports that MH17 had crashed. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board MH17, as well as their families and loved ones. We stand ready to provide assistance,” the plane maker said in a statement.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was “shocked” at reports of another Malaysia Airlines disaster but confirmed that an immediate investigation has been launched. Minister of Defence Hishammuddin Hussein said at press time that he was conferring with PM Razak and Malaysia’s Transport Ministry regarding MH17.