Obama offers U.S. help in finding cause of jet crash

Posted: July 19, 2014

WILMINGTON - President Obama on Thursday offered American assistance in trying to determine what happened to a Malaysian airliner that broke apart under mysterious circumstances over what is essentially a combat zone in eastern Ukraine.

Saying the incident appeared to be a "terrible tragedy," the president said the government's "first priority" is determining if any Americans were aboard.

In brief remarks about the crash during an appearance in Wilmington, Obama offered his condolences to the families of the 295 passengers and crew on the plane, none of whom is believed to have survived.

"We will offer any assistance we can to determine what happened and why," he said.

The area where the plane went down is controlled by separatists battling the Ukraine government in an effort to join eastern Ukraine with Russia.

The president spoke at an event where he announced a plan to promote transportation improvement projects with the closed I-495 bridge in the background.

The trip was overshadowed by assertions by Ukranian officials that the Malaysian airliner with 295 aboard was downed by a Russian missile in eastern Ukraine.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that before flying to Delaware, the president spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on other issues and that near the end of the conversation Putin "noted the early reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border."

"The president has directed his team to be in close touch with senior Ukranian officials on this matter," Earnest said.

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