Freelance photographer John Wendle describes the harrowing moment he arrived on the scene of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash.

I got here late last night at about 10.30pm. The wreck was still burning. Bits of metal smouldering and a rescue team were hosing the wreckage down. I saw the bodies of a man and a woman tangled together – as if they were hugging.

They must have been sitting together. There was a whole line of bodies stretching away. There were between a dozen to two dozen bodies just off the road and it looked like they had been arranged.

This morning was a beautiful sunrise but a horrendous scene. I walked up the road to the main site.  Baggage was strewn on the road, passports and itineraries on the ground.

One of them read ‘Top ten places to visit in Indonesia’. A t-shirt that read I heart Amsterdam.  A bottle of duty free whiskey lay by the road. It was like a movie set – it looked unreal.


The grass was burnt away from where the body of the plane was sitting. Melted aluminum made rivulets in the scorched landscape.

Three rebel fighters then walked through the back of the site and started looking through the wreckage. They showed me the body of a small girl they’d found the night before.

They covered her to protect her from the elements.

A purple purse stuffed with around a half dozen passports was open nearby.  There was just one policeman there this morning.

He opened the purse and started looking at the passports to see how old the kids were. I didn’t want anything moved. We put everything back in its place.

Follow @johnwendle on Twitter