Dutch Minister Says MH17 Victim Found Wearing Oxygen Mask

According to the Dutch foreign minister, an MH17 passenger was wearing an oxygen mask at the time of the crash.
Posted at 5:33 PM, Oct 09, 2014

An off-the-cuff remark from the Dutch Foreign Minister has revealed new information about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which is believed to have been shot down over Ukraine in July.

According to Dutch investigators, one of the passengers on MH17 was found wearing an oxygen mask — suggesting at least some of the flight's passengers were aware the plane was going to crash in their final moments. (Video via CNN)

That contradicts previous assumptions about the fate of MH17's passengers — the flight was believed to have broken up in midair on impact, killing all 298 people aboard instantly.

That information comes from Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who gave a passionate speech to the U.N. Security Council four days after the crash, in which he emotionally imagined the victim's last moments.

TIMMERMANS VIA C-SPAN: "Did they lock hands with their loved ones? Did they hold their children close to their hearts? ... Did they look each other in the eyes, one final time, in a wordless goodbye?"

Timmermans was grilled on that speech during a Wednesday night talk show, and when questioned about how he could be certain the MH17 passengers knew their fate before the crash, Timmermans replied, "Do you know that someone was found with an oxygen mask on their mouth - and so they had the time to put it on?"

The family of the victim was told about the oxygen mask beforehand — but the rest of the victim's families were not informed before the minister's interview. A lawyer representing the victim's families told Dutch broadcaster NOS Timmermans' comments shocked his clients.

Timmermans issued an apology for revealing the information Thursday, saying "The next of kin have my profound sympathy. The last thing I want to do is worsen their pain in any way." The Foreign Ministry also added it was too early in the investigation to draw any conclusions from the oxygen mask.

The Netherlands has taken a leading role in investigating the MH17 crash — 193 of the incident's victims were Dutch. A preliminary report was published last month by the Dutch Safety Board, suggesting the flight was shot down by a ground missile during Ukraine's ongoing conflict.

This video includes images from Getty Images.