Malaysian Airlines lost contact with flight MH17, a Boeing 777-200ER from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Reports from Ukraine now say that the flight was shot down. In an eerie coincidence, today is the anniversary of the crash of TWA flight 800.
Eastern Ukraine is a highly volatile area. A Ukrainian Il-76 military plane was shot down in June in the same region. Just yesterday, a Ukrainian Su-25 was shot down by a Russian jet in an air-to-air encounter.
Sources say the Boeing 777-200ER registration was 9M-MRD. Photo by Alan Wilson (CC Commercial License)
Malaysia Airlines has issued a statement on the incident:
Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day.
The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard.
The flight was also a code-share with KLM, who has released this statement:
Although not yet officially confirmed by Malaysia Airlines, it is with great regret that KLM has learnt about the possible incident with flight MH17, codeshare KL4103, of Malaysia Airlines from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
A YouTube video allegedly shot on location had been posted:
More as we have it.
UPDATE 12:32PM EDT —Flight tracking site FlightRadar24 shows that the transponder signal was lost as the plane was about to cross into Russia.
UPDATE 12:44PM EDT — Boeing has issued a statement on the incident: "Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the Malaysia Airlines airplane lost over Ukrainian airspace, as well as their families and loved ones."
UPDATE 12:54PM EDT — German airline Lufthansa has announced they will stop flying over the region. US airlines were given the directive to avoid the region back in April of this year.
UPDATE 1:35PM EDT — Among the 295 dead are 23 U.S. citizens.
UPDATE 2:00PM EDT — Ukraine Press Secretary calls MH17 crash an act of terror on Twitter:
UPDATE: 2:14PM EDT — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says no current airspace restrictions were in effect for MH17's flight path.
UPDATE 2:25PM EDT - According to Reuters, pro-Russian separatists claim to have found the "black box" recorder. NBC's Brian Williams points out that this crash investigation will be happening in an active war zone. The debris field spreads over an estimated 9-mile area, indicating the plane broke up at a high altitude.
Video showing MH17 wreckage, from YouTube
UPDATE 3:24PM EDT — Reuters reports that search efforts are being hampered "by armed terrorists."
USAToday graphic, showing where other planes in the region have been shot down this week.
New statement from Malaysia PM, Najib Razak
Yesterday evening, I was informed of the terrible and deeply shocking news that a Malaysia Airlines jet went down in eastern Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the jet was Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The flight departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm, local time. It was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10 am, local, Malaysian time.
The aircraft was a Boeing 777-200.
The aircraft's flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
And International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.
Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call.
The flight was carrying a total number of 295 people – comprising 280 passengers and 15 crew members.
Malaysia Airlines is in the process of notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew. All possible care will be provided to the next-of-kin.
The Government of Malaysia is dispatching a special flight to Kiev, carrying a Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team, as well as a medical team.
According to information provided by Kiev Air Traffic Control, the location of the plane's emergency locator beacon is 48 degrees 7 minutes and 23 seconds North; and 38 degrees 31 minutes and 33 seconds East.
The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down.
At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy.
But we must – and we will – find out precisely what happened to this flight.
No stone can be left unturned.
If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.
Emergency operations centres have been established. In the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere.
And I will be speaking to a number of world leaders over the coming hours.
I have had several conversations with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
I have also spoken to the President of Ukraine. He has pledged that there will be a full, thorough and independent investigation, and Malaysian officials will be invited to take part.
The Ukrainian president also confirmed that his government will negotiate with rebels in the east of the country, in order to establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site.
Just now, I received a call from President Obama.
He and I both agreed that the investigation must not be hindered in anyway.
An international team must have full access to the crash site.
And no one should interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box.
This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia.
As we work to understand what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those onboard the flight.
I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time.
The flight's passengers and crew came from many different countries.
But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.
Top photo via Reuters