Scenes of near-unspeakable horror, with crumpled corpses and body parts strewn amid the smouldering wreckage, greeted local villagers and pro-Russian rebels who were first on the scene of the crash.
Journalists covering the separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine chronicled the gruesome carnage with searing eyewitness reports from the wheat field where flight MH17 smashed to earth, with no survivors from the 295 on board.
"A woman in a black sweater top lay on her back, blood streaming from her face, her left arm raised as if signalling someone," wrote Sabrine Tavernise, a New York Times correspondent.
"Another victim, naked except for a black bra, lay on the field, her grey hair mixing with the green grasses, one leg broken and her body torn.
"A young boy, who looked to be around 10 years old, lay on his side in a red T-shirt that read 'Don't Panic'." Rescue workers from the local militia forces tied pieces of white cloth on tree branches as near to the scene as they could as approximate markers of where bodies were found.
A travel guide to the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok, its pages intact, was a simple reminder that many of the passengers were heading off on holiday to Asia.
"Many of the victims were still in their seat belts and attached to pieces of the plane," Ms Tavernise continued. "One man, still in his socks, but without pants [trousers], lay akimbo on the field, his right arm placed on his stomach, as if in repose. "A young man in blue shorts, wearing red Nike sneakers, lay with his arms and legs splayed outward, clutching his iPhone."
Locals told Noah Sneider a freelance American journalist, that at first, they thought they were being bombed as the plane tore apart above the ground, raining wreckage, bodies and personal possessions along a debris path cut across the rural area.
"Bodies everywhere, organs splayed out," he wrote on the social media site Twitter. "Too gruesome to post photographs. This is an absolute disaster.
"Everything burnt out. Impossible to comprehend."
First-aid workers gather on the site of the crash. Photo / AFP
One local rebel fighter told him: "I've never seen anything like it. You look down and see ears, fingers, bones."
A rescue worker, who would give only his first name, Alexei, told The New York Times that wreckage was scattered across a crash zone of about four to six square miles. "It fell down in pieces," he said.
Rescue workers, who numbered about 60, set up tents to gather the dead and the road past the field was lined with fire engines and other emergency vehicles. Parts of the aircraft, including a tail fin clearly displaying the red and blue colours of Malaysia Airlines, were strewn across the road and field.
"Dogs barked in the distance and the air was filled with a bitter smell," wrote Ms Tavernise. "As dark descended on the field ... a light rain began to fall, casting a funereal pall over a scene of almost unspeakable horror."