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3 years ago
Downing of plane in Ukraine scatters bodies and debris for miles
July 17, 2014 / 9:05 PM / 3 years ago

Downing of plane in Ukraine scatters bodies and debris for miles

* Debris, bodies scattered over several kilometres

* Kiev, rebels dispute what brought down airliner

By Anton Zverev

HRABOVE, Ukraine, July 17 (Reuters) - A lone fireman stood hosing down a smouldering pile of wreckage and mangled bodies on Thursday after a Malaysian passenger airliner was brought down in fields in eastern Ukraine.

To reach the wreckage, media crews, emergency vehicles, locals and rebels - fighting to unite the eastern territory with Russia - drove around body parts along a narrow pot-holed road beside the fields, where the dead were strewn over an area of several kilometres (miles).

The debris from the plane, which came down near the village of Hrabove about 40 km (25 miles) from the border with Russia, was scattered across such a large area that one piece of metal fell on the town of Snezhnye, some 20 km away, residents said.

What or who brought down the plane, killing all 295 passengers and crew aboard, was disputed but there was no doubt that those on board had no chance of survival.

"There was a loud bang. I got scared because it sounded so close. I looked up and there were black bits raining down in every direction," said a witness, who gave his name only as Vladimir and said he had been working nearby in his tractor.

"Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke," he said.

A broken wing lay in one part of a wide field and the tail fin in another, the red and blue markings of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 clearly visible.

Twisted hunks of metal, parts of the broken fuselage, also lay by the side of the road, with the seats now empty. A large sheet of metal lined with oval holes, where the plane's windows once were, lay flattened on the scorched earth.

Shirtless local villagers carried bits of the fuselage out of their back yards, lined by weathered wood-picket fences.

SOME BODIES INTACT

Some of the victims lying on the ground were naked, their clothing apparently destroyed by the blazing plane and their limbs twisted at awkward angles.

A few bodies were bloodied but still largely intact, though others were in pieces.

Recovery workers left signs where the bodies were found and many were taken away. A travel guide for the island of Bali lay on the ground.

Just three fire trucks, one ambulance and one hearse were parked nearby as pro-Russian separatist fighters in combat fatigues sifted through the wreckage. They were from a local group of fighters known as the Vostok (East) battalion.

One man collected passports from the bodies strewn across the field and drew up a list of the victims' names.

"From my balcony I saw a plane begin to descend from a great height and then heard two explosions," said one separatist from nearby Krasnyi Luch who gave his name only as Sergei.

He denied the rebels had shot the plane down.

"This could happen only if it was a fighter jet or a surface-to-air missile (that shot it down)," he said, noting that the rebels did not have weapons capable of shooting down a plane at such a height.

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, disputed that, blaming the incident on "terrorists" and Ukraine's state security chief accused two Russian military intelligence officers of involvement in the downing of the plane. (Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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