Bodies dropped from the sky onto streets and houses like weights as the burning aircraft disintegrated as it plummeted to the ground, rural Ukrainians recalled. Valeny Vodnev, 50, said he was in his house when he heard two booming sounds.
Thinking it was an attack by Ukrainian armed forces, he ran out and saw a fuselage falling through the clouds and with it, corpses.
“I started to count ... one, two, three, four, five ... seventeen, then I lost count. Bodies were falling everywhere,” he told The Star when met at his village.
Moments after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was hit by a surface-to-air missile, the villagers of Rassypnoe, about 80km from here, saw the burning aircraft disintegrating into pieces.
Vodnev said the first body he saw was that of a Caucasian man, who fell near the village’s entrance.
Part of the plane’s cockpit fell near an abandoned orphanage, narrowly missing many of the houses here.
Nikolai Kovannyi, 45, said he saw the body of a woman and another body he thought might have been her infant son falling to the ground.
“The baby was caught among the branches of a tree and his body was not broken. His mother ... it could have been his mother ... fell on the ground. They were not far from each other,” he said, declining to describe the condition of the woman’s body.
Marina Volkova, 45, said: “I was in my house when I heard two booms outside. Then something fell on my roof.
“My husband ran out to investigate. He came back in a state of shock.”
Volkova’s husband told her a body had fallen and broke into two at the edge of their front door.
“Human life is too important, no one should have died this way,” she sobbed.
Villagers have printed out pictures of the dead, placing candles and soft toys to mark their passing. The site here has been cleaned and the bodies removed.
As a group of us walked through streets, many people – on learning we were Malaysians – called out to us: “We are so sorry (that this happened.)”
Near the destroyed cockpit, a rebel soldier showed The Star an Aidilfitri postcard intended for a Malaysian address and tried to give it to us to take it back home.
In another village nearby, a local said he had found the legs of an unknown child in his garden, and nothing else.
But even as bodies and wreckage fell around the villagers, many here felt that it was a miracle that no one here was physically harmed by the disaster.
Tymur Kolensnyk, 23, a Donetsk local who has been here several times, mused it might have been angels guarding them from harm, pointing at debris that fell in fields and not homes.
It was a miracle, Vodnev said, looking sadly at where the bodies once lay.