MH17: authorities say 27 Australians on board
Authorities confirm that 27 Australians were among the 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine, according to US officials.PT1M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3c4of 620 349 July 18, 2014
Headphones and computers were scattered throughout a field of sunflowers. In another field, a Dutch passport lay open. Bodies fell from the sky.
That was some of what residents and rescue workers saw after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 came to a jolting rest in a large wheat field dotted with purple flowers and Queen Anne’s lace, trailing debris over several miles of sparsely populated Ukrainian farmland.
Smoke and flames in the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 Photo: AFP
“It was horrible,” said a separatist rebel who was part of the rescue crew and would give only his first name, Sergei. “We were in shock.”
The road to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, not far from the Russian border, was lined with fire engines and other emergency vehicles. Separatist militiamen, plentiful in this rebel-controlled territory, urged journalists to take photographs.
There were no houses in the immediate vicinity. The only visible structure was a poultry operation with long white coops in the distance.
Wreckage of MH17 near the Ukrainian town of Shaktarsk. Photo: AFP
Pieces of the plane were scattered across the road and field: a seat back with its television display cracked; a tail fin clearly displaying the red and blue colours of Malaysia Airlines. One televised image showed a travel guide for Bali, Indonesia, almost untouched.
Many of the victims were still in their seatbelts. Others had personal belongings scattered nearby.
The closest village was Grabovo, a small coal-mining town whose residents had been among the first to see the plane. Oleg Georgievich, 40, a miner who is also fighting with the insurgency here, said he had heard noises shortly after 4pm and thought the town was being bombed. Aircraft have been flying over daily, he said, and have bombed neighbouring villages on a number of occasions.
Firefighters extinguish blaze in the MH17 wreckage. Photo: AFP
He heard a sound like a whistle, then walked onto to his balcony on the fifth floor and saw something falling from the sky. He later understood it was part of the plane’s fuselage. Then he saw something strange, things that looked like pieces of cloth coming fast toward the earth. They were bodies, many with their clothing torn off.
His first call from the site of the crash, he said, was at 4.32pm. He said he found an odd assortment of items: equipment for horses, including brushes; medical supplies; a Dutch passport.
Rescue workers said they counted many children.
A rescue worker manning a white table, who would give only his first name, Alexei, said the area of the crash was 10 to 15 square kilometers in a rectangle that he had marked in red pen in crosshatching on a map.
He said that parts of the plane were scattered over the entire area and that the pilot had not tried to land in the field: The plane appeared to have been torn apart in the sky.
“It fell down in pieces,” he said, adding that rescue workers numbered about 60 and were setting up tents to gather the dead.
Oleg Georgievich, the coal miner, who would give only his first name and patronymic, not his last name, said he was afraid of what the tragedy would bring. Ukraine has been accusing Russia and the rebels of shooting down its planes, and he said he did not think this situation would be any different.
“Tomorrow, the Ukrainians are going to say that I shot this plane down with my gun,” he said, standing in the darkness. “Look at me. I’m in sneakers; I have no flak jacket. You want to know what year it was made?” He looked at a journalist. The date stamped on the gun was 1953.
The New York Times