LAST_UPDATEWed, 20 Jun 2018 8pm

MH17 Crash: Dutch Minister Says Passenger 'Wore Oxygen Mask'

The Boeing 777 disintegrated in mid-air and experts believed the passengers would have known little about it.The Boeing 777 disintegrated in mid-air and experts believed the passengers would have known little about it.Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has said that one of the 298 people killed in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine was found wearing an oxygen mask.

His revelation casts doubt on the theory that all on board died instantly when the plane was hit by a missile.

An initial report last month said flight MH17 broke up in mid-air after being hit by "objects" that "pierced the plane at high velocity".

Rebel leaders deny shooting it down.

Mr Timmermans is due to leave his post shortly as foreign minister to take up a high-profile post as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's right-hand man.

Final moments

He mentioned the oxygen mask during an interview on Dutch TV in which he was taken to task about an emotive speech he gave to the UN four days after flight MH17 was downed on 17 July.

In his address to the Security Council, Mr Timmermans imagined the horror felt by the passengers "when they knew the plane was going down" and wondered whether they had looked each other in the eyes "one final time, in an unarticulated goodbye".

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans addressing the UN on 21 July

Four days after the disaster, Mr Timmermans gave an emotive address to the UN Security Council

When asked on Wednesday night if he had created an image that had not really taken place, Mr Timmermans said: "Oh yes? Can you be so sure about that?"

He acknowledged that those on board, 196 of them Dutch, would not have seen the missile hit the plane.

"But do you know that someone was found with an oxygen mask on their mouth - and so they had the time to put it on?" Mr Timmermans said.

He went on to say that nothing could be ruled out about the 298 victims' final moments.

The official inquiry into the MH17 disaster has not made any mention of an oxygen mask being found on one of the victims.

But several experts have concluded that the plane would have disintegrated too quickly for the passengers to have known anything about it.

The plane had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

Although investigators were unable to visit the crash site because of fighting in the area, their initial report pieced together photographic evidence of the wreckage as well as cockpit and air traffic control data.

They said it pointed to "an in-flight break up" and added there was "no evidence of technical or human error".

The plane was hit while flying at 33,000ft (10,000m) and debris was found over a wide area of eastern Ukrainian territory held by pro-Russian rebels.

--BBC News World