Eyewitness at Malaysia Airlines Crash Site: 'I've Never Seen Anything So Horrifying'

Armed pro-Russian militants pass next to the wreckage of a Boeing 777, of Malaysia Arilines flight MH17 debris, which crashed during flight over the eastern Ukraine region near Donetsk, Ukraine, 18 July 2014.

GRABOVA, Ukraine —The roads to the crash site are awful, but through the five checkpoints to the site of the Malaysian airlines crash this morning, we encountered surprisingly little resistance from separatist soldiers. The crash site sits in the middle of golden fields of wheat, the peaceful, bucolic expanse scarred black. In one place, the wreckage still smolders.

The wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur a day after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.
From what we have been told, there are two different debris fields. The primary site is approximately one square kilometer. Here we found the remains of the fuselage and the wing and, among the wreckage, carelessly tossed bodies and luggage of the civilians on board.

A stick with a white piece of cloth marks where a body from the crash lays.
I have never seen anything so horrifying. Here amid the broken bits of plane were twisted bodies, dismembered corpses and flattened flesh. Some were missing pieces of clothing. There was very little left; the most human component of the scene was the banal possessions of those on board.

Personal belongings and luggage of passengers between debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed during flying over the eastern Ukraine region near Donetsk, Ukraine, 18 July 2014.
An asphalt road stretches across this flat plain and, when we got there, different groups of people were milling around. Some teenagers and older men clustered around a few houses at the edge of the field, talking to press and smoking. Emergency services had set up tents, but there was little they could do, given that all the passengers on the plane had died.
Though they carried weapons, soldiers did little to patrol the area. Both soldiers and emergency service personnel refused to talk to the press. What looked like a group of miners walked down this long, straight road as if on a vigil, seeming to mourn the dead. They, too, refused to speak to the press.
Ukraine Plane Photo Gallery

Ukrainian coal miners search the site of a crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane
The political implications of this tragedy are grave. And even this solemn place was not free from politics: the self-proclaimed Governor of Donetsk, Pavel Gubarev made a brief appearance to address journalists, arguing that the separatists did not have the weaponry to take down this aircraft.
Gubarev urged caution, encouraging the international community to reflect on their response and saying he didn't want the conflict to escalate into an international engagement. “You should have experts from various countries confront the Ukrainian government...to ask them why they are promoting this confrontation with Russia," he said. "Once we get objective information, then we can approach the matter in an unbiased way.”
Christopher Allen is freelance journalist, currently based in Ukraine.

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