MH17 plane crash site: sunhats, sweets … and stakes
marking body parts
Human remains, debris from Malaysia Airlines plane
and surreal paraphernalia of long-haul travellers covers
15 square mile area
Luggage, clothing and other passenger items
lie gathered at the site. Photograph:
For miles around, you can see
them, strips of white cotton attached to wooden stakes
in the fields of eastern Ukraine.
Each stake marks a victim from flight MH17, or at least
a body part. There are a lot of stakes.But then there is
a lot of debris, a vast wash of metal, charred remnants,
and the surreal paraphernalia of international long-haul
travel, smeared over a ruined 15-square mile area.
Handbags. Footwear. Passports amid the sunflowers.
You can tell some of the
passengers had been on holiday. Scattered across the
crash site was the unmistakable jetsam of vacation:
sunhats and suntan lotion, summer clothing, duty free
shopping, the occasional poolside novel. You could also
tell that children were here from the unopened packets
of Haribo sweets, the fistful of playing cards, a
first-year drawing scrawled in a notebook, a small
black-and-white stuffed monkey abandoned in the grass.
Some of the bodies are
perfectly intact, some ruined beyond recognition, some
partly disrobed by the G-force of falling to earth. One
woman lies partly burned, a hand raised above her head,
stripped of all but her undergarments.
It was not just the human
passengers that died. An unlikely menagerie of dead pets
lay strewn across the scene in the grass, bright blue
and yellow macaws, a cockatoo, a random giant St Bernard
dog curled peacefully where he fell.
The sticky Ukrainian summer
will not be kind to the bodies. Warm sunshine gave way
to rain and humidity on Friday. By late afternoon, the
sharp tang of kerosene had been overpowered by something
altogether more macabre: the cloying smell of death.
They're getting used to death
here. This is a de facto war zone. Explosions rang out
every few minutes as a reminder. And when the separatist
rebels first saw the debris falling on Thursday
afternoon, their initial thought was that they might be
under attack from paratroopers.
"Initially I thought it was a
paratrooper descending from the plane but then realized
that there were people falling from the sky in the
passenger seats," said one of the rebels Vladimir, 45,
holding a Kalashnikov in his hands.
A broken watch lies on a plastic cover at
the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash.
Photograph: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP