Malaysia says jetliner did not make distress call
A woman reacts after hearing about the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane crashing in eastern Ukraine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, July 18, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said it lost contact with Flight 17 over Ukrainian airspace Thursday. It was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)
A woman reacts to news regarding a Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, July 18, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said it lost contact with Flight 17 over Ukrainian airspace Thursday. It was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)
A woman reacts to news regarding a Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, July 18, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said it lost contact with Flight 17 over Ukrainian airspace Thursday. It was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
In this image taken from video, Thursday July 17, 2014, showing flames rising from part of the wreckage of a passenger plane carrying 295 people after it was shot down Thursday as it flew over Ukraine, near the village of Hrabove, in eastern Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines tweeted that it lost contact with one of its flights as it was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Ukrainian airspace. (AP Photo / Channel 1) RUSSIA OUT - TV OUT
The Malaysia Airlines jetliner that went down in war-torn Ukraine did not make any distress call, Malaysia’s prime minister said yesterday, adding that its flight route also had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who addressed a news conference after speaking with leaders of Ukraine, the Netherlands, and President Obama, said, “No stone will be left unturned” in finding out what happened to Flight 17.
Najib told reporters that Ukrainian authorities believe Flight 17, which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew, was shot down yesterday. Among the passengers were three infants.
A U.S. official said American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile took down the plane, but it is not clear who fired it. He said it appears unlikely the Ukrainian government, which has denied responsibility, shot down the plane because it doesn’t have the capabilities. Pro-Russia separatists fighting the government have also denied any responsibility.
“At this 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,” Najib said. “If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice,” he said.
Najib said the aircraft flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The International Air Transportation Association had also stated that the air space that the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions, he said. Besides, “Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call.”
Still, a former head of airports security group BAA suggested that many airlines, including Malaysia Airlines, had continued to use the route despite warnings because it was shorter and cheaper.
“It is a busy aviation route and there have been suggestions that a notice was given to aviators telling airlines to avoid that particular area,” said Norman Shanks, who is also professor of aviation security at Coventry University in England.
“But Malaysia Airlines, like a number of other carriers, have been continuing to use it because it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money,” he told the Associated Press.
Hours after the disaster, Malaysia Airlines announced all European flights will henceforth take an alternative route.
Najib said the Ukrainian government has promised a full and thorough investigation which will include Malaysian officials. He said they will also negotiate with rebels to “establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site.”
In his conversation with Obama, Najib said, they agreed that “the investigation must not be hindered in any way. An international team must have full access to the crash site. And no one must interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box.”
Earlier, several relatives of those on board the Malaysian airliner began arriving at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to seek news of their loved ones.
A distraught Akmar Mohamad Noor said her older sister, who lives in Geneva, was on her way back to celebrate Eid with the family.
The 67-year-old sister has lived in Geneva for 30 years and last visited the family in Kuala Lumpur five years ago, she said.
“She was coming back from Geneva to celebrate (Eid) with us for the first time in 30 years,” Akmar said in between sobs. “She called me just before she boarded the plane and said, ‘See you soon,’ ” Akmar said.
She said the family saw the news on TV and rushed to the airport to get details.
Several other angry relatives were shouting and demanding to see the passenger manifest but there was no official from Malaysia Airlines present, and security guards prevented them from going into the airline’s operating area.
“We have been waiting for four hours. We found out the news from international media. The Facebook is more efficient than MAS. It’s so funny, they are a laughing stock,” an angry young man told reporters. He declined to give his name.