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MH17 flew above restricted airspace prior to crash

GRABOVKA, UKRAINE - JULY 18: A Ukrainian police officer searches for human remains found in a field on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
GRABOVKA, UKRAINE - JULY 18: A Ukrainian police officer searches for human remains found in a field on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Malaysia Airlines MH17 which crashed Thursday near the Russia-Ukraine border was flying above restricted airspace just prior to its fiery crash which killed at least 298 people, civil aviation organization Eurocontrol confirmed. The flight was flying at flight level [FL] 330, or 33,000 feet, when it was hit with a suspected missile as it flew between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

The carrier confirmed Friday 298 people dead after the carriers second major incident involving a Boeing 777-200 in just over four months. On March 8, MH370 went missing as it flew towards Beijing, China. It has not been found.

The plane involved in Thursday's crash [9M-MRD] entered service in July 17, 1997 and had 75,322 hours of flying time in 17 years of service. The last maintenance check was conducted on July 11 and the aircraft was given a clean bill of health, the airline said.

Netherlands took the brunt of the casualties with all 154 citizens on board the plane feared dead. At least 43 people, including 15 crewmembers and 2 infants, were Malaysian nationals. Another 27 passengers were Australian and 12 were from Indonesia. There were nationals of the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, and the Philippines on board the plane, the airline confirmed in a statement. One Canadian was also on board and another 41 people remain unidentified.

Since the crash, the airspace above eastern Ukraine has been closed and all future flight plans over the affected area will be rejected, Eurocontrol said. Airlines around the world said they would avoid the area entirely as the investigation is carried out. Earlier, the International Air Travel Association said in a statement that MH17 was flying in airspace “Not subject to restrictions.” The airspace above the crash was indeed restricted, but only up to FL320. To work around this, MH17 climbed to FL330 to avoid the restriction, officials confirmed.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed Thursday that International Civil Air Organization had declared MH17's route safe prior to the flight. Razak said the flight crew did not make any distress calls prior to the crash and that reports that the plane was shot down by a missile are unconfirmed.

“No stone can be left unturned” during the investigation he said.