Networks Break in for Malaysia Airlines Crash Over Ukraine

Malaysian Airlines Ukraine Map - H 2014

Malaysian Airlines Ukraine Map - H 2014

Several networks have planned to expand their coverage of the crash in primetime.

The broadcast and cable news networks broke into regularly scheduled programming Thursday morning to cover news of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.

A Ukrainian official said the plane carrying 295 people — 280 passengers and 15 crew members — was shot down Thursday over a town in the eastern part of the country.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates all broke into their morning shows to cover the news with special reports, while CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel also refocused their news coverage on the crash.

Today hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie anchored coverage for NBC, while CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley anchored for the network. On ABC, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos led the coverage, while Shepard Smith led for Fox.

Over on the cable news networks, Anderson Cooper was in the anchor's chair for CNN, Andrea Mitchell for MSNBC and Harris Faulkner for Fox News Channel.

Other networks that broke in for coverage included BBC World News, Fox Business Network, One America News, Al Jazeera America and CNBC.

Meanwhile, Fox News Channel said it will present continuous live coverage of the breaking news, pre-empting Outnumbered along with part of the regular daytime schedule. FNC will continue live coverage during primetime on The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File and Hannity. In addition, The Kelly File will air an extra hour from 11 p.m.-midnight. Fox & Friends First will begin an hour early, at 4 a.m.

ABC's World News will air an extended broadcast to cover the crash — along with the Israel/Hamas conflict — from 6:30-7:30 p.m., with David Muir anchoring. Among those reporting will be Lama Hasan from Amsterdam along with Martha Raddatz, Brian Ross, Jonathan Karl, Jim Avila, David Kerley, Kirit Radia, Contributor Col. Stephen Ganyard (ret.) and John Nance.

Brian Williams will anchor an expanded one-hour broadcast of NBC Nightly News with special coverage on the crash.

CBS will expand its evening newscast with Pelley to one hour, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Additionally, CBS News is sending Mark Phillips to Ukraine, Seth Doane to Malaysia and Elizabeth Palmer to Amsterdam.

On Thursday, Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukraine town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it "has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow."

The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days.

On Wednesday night, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.

Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added that the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely.

Moscow denies Western charges that it is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn't be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet, and Russia's foreign ministry didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory.

The rebels are known to possess portable anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but Ukrainian officials say that kind of weapon would have been unable to reach Monday's plane at the altitude at which it was flying Monday. Aviation experts, however, have questioned whether the stricken transport plane was flying at the altitude Ukrainian officials had claimed.

The news comes four months after another Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. The wreckage from that crash has not yet been found.