• Sat
  • Nov 22, 2014
  • Updated: 12:34pm
LifestyleTechnology
AVIATION

Death is mercifully quick when a rocket hits an airliner mid-flight

If trauma from mid-air explosion isn't fatal, unconsciousness takes hold before plane's fall

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 3:47am
 

The blast force from the missile that slammed into a Malaysian plane over Ukraine, combined with the plane's dramatic deceleration, probably instantly rendered everyone on board unconscious or dead.

That's the best guess of James Vosswinkel, a trauma surgeon who led a definitive study of TWA flight 800 that exploded and crashed off New York's Long Island in 1996, killing all 230 on board. The Malaysian plane carried 298.

Vosswinkel's research found that trauma in a mid-air explosion occurs from three sources: the force of the blast, the massive deceleration when a plane going 800 km/h stops in mid-air, and the impact of the fall. Additionally, the loss of cabin pressure can cause hypoxia within seconds at 10,000 metres, leading to loss of consciousness.

"You have such horrific forces that it's essentially unsurvivable," said Vosswinkel, chief of trauma and surgical critical care at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. "No one was conscious or experienced that fall."

While none of the 230 passengers in the 1996 crash survived, most of their bodies were subsequently recovered. Though the crash occurred offshore, the analysis found none of the passengers had sea water in their lungs, suggesting none were breathing when they entered the water.

The conditions of many of the bodies found in that crash were widely divergent, according to Vosswinkel.

"You had some devastating injuries where the brain and heart were missing," he said. A couple were "totally intact; all they had was a broken neck."

It appears from public reports that flight MH17 had been struck towards its tail, blowing most of the structure away, said Bill Waldock, a professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The missile "uses a proximity fuse which goes off when it gets close", Waldock said. "The warhead is like a giant shotgun shell sending multiple shards of metal through the plane. It's doubtful it hit the plane, but once you lose the tail you can't fly the plane," he said.

The passengers would certainly have become unconscious, Waldock said. "It's literally an explosive decompression and would have caused a lot of g-force pushing people back in their seats."

While it would have taken the plane minutes to fall from 10,000 metres, hypoxia would have rendered anyone who survived the initial blast unconscious, he said.

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12

This article is now closed to comments

billywyy
you're an insensitive jerk, dleon
gkuhl
Why did God let them die?
53da1a2d-77b0-4ef1-942c-52b50a3209cb
are you saying that the plane was filled with 298 atheist?
Paradox314
Why don't you read the article?
genekim
Nice speculation but it's ****. When they showed the video footage I saw a woman whose face was blurred out but you could clearly see the oxygen mask strapped to her face. It had turned black from the smoke. At least some of them were alive and conscious on the way down.
dleonRJ
As a lesson to the living of the consequences of human decisions that ignores God's commandments.
CatherineOhlLaw
It's the speculation that is merciful.
53de375a-b398-4fd9-8acc-52ba0a3209cb
Dominant is probaly the roots coursed of evil
53dc6b59-998c-4331-8f0e-08d40a3209ca
This is probably the scene where the SAM explodes as described above ****www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B8u_XzbSuQ
chuchu59
I hope God had mercy on them and gave them a quick and painless death.

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