The body of one passenger of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was found wearing an oxygen mask, Dutch prosecutors revealed today, raising questions about how much those on board knew about their fate when the plane plunged out of the sky above Eastern Ukraine in July. The passenger, an Australian, didn't have the mask on his face, but its elastic strap was around his neck, says a rep for the Dutch National Prosecutor's Office, which is carrying out a criminal investigation into the air disaster. He adds that Dutch forensic experts investigated the mask "for fingerprints, saliva, and DNA and that did not produce any results. So it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim."
The rep says no other bodies recovered from the wreckage were found wearing masks. All 298 passengers and crew died when the jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed July 17. Dutch investigators said last month it was likely struck by multiple "high-energy objects." Relatives of the Australian passenger were told about the mask as soon as it was discovered, but relatives of other victims heard about it for the first time when Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans mentioned it on a late-night talk show yesterday. Timmermans now says he regrets his comments. "I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the next-of-kin," he says. "The last thing I want to do is compound their suffering in this way."