Dutch investigators are trying to determine why an oxygen mask was found around the neck of a passenger from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that crashed in eastern Ukraine.
The Dutch prosecution office, Openbaar Ministerie, states that the mask was the same type installed on 777s for use in case of a drop in cabin pressure.
No other occupants of flight MH17 have been found with masks, it says.
Openbaar Ministerie says the mask being studied was found around the passenger’s neck, attached by a band, although examination for fingerprints and DNA has yielded no results.
It acknowledges that the presence of the mask could give the impression that occupants of MH17 might have remained conscious for a period of time after the initial event that triggered the 777’s destruction.
Investigators have yet to conclude formally the reasons for the 17 July crash of MH17 but the Ukrainian government, among several, believes the aircraft was shot down by separatist forces.
There is evidence of penetration of the fuselage by high-energy fragments, which would have depressurised the aircraft as it cruised at 33,000ft en route to Kuala Lumpur.
Openbaar Ministerie says the discovery of the mask had not been disclosed previously because investigative research was still being conducted to establish its significance.