Grabove (Ukraine) (AFP) - An Australian couple who lost their daughter in downed Malaysian flight MH17 visited the crash site in rebel-held east Ukraine on Saturday, the first relatives of victims to arrive at the scene.
Grief-stricken Jerzy Dyczynski and Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski's 25-year-old daughter Fatima was one of 298 victims killed when the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down on July 17.
"She was full of life," Rudhart-Dyczynski said about her only child at the site, explaining that she had insisted they be driven to the crash scene despite warning about fighting raging nearby.
She said they did not have enough money for the journey but received donations from neighbours.
Her daughter, who was studying for a master's degree in aerospace engineering in Delft in The Netherlands, had wanted to be a pilot when she was a little girl, she said.
The woman hugged journalists present and thanked them for their work. The couple said they had come to see how the crash happened.
Her father wore a white T-shirt with a portrait of their daughter, who had been making her way to Australia to see her parents on the doomed flight.
"Fatima: We Love You", the T-shirt read.
The parents were overcome with emotion as they walked through the scorched earth and laid a large bouquet of flowers on part of the debris.
They had arrived on a minibus at the separatist-held zone, ignoring their government's safety warnings, and said they reached the area thanks to a Ukrainian couple.
They came despite escalating fighting in and around rebel-held Donetsk on Saturday -- a few dozen kilometres from the area, with missile fire heard in several parts of the city.
Dyczynski, a doctor, was quoted by Australian media earlier saying he was hoping to find their child alive.
He said she could have been flung out of the plane and had she still been strapped in her seat, this could have cushioned the impact of hitting the ground.
The MH17 tragedy has touched a nerve in Australia, which had 28 citizens and at least nine permanent residents aboard the flight.
The Dyczynskis first travelled to The Netherlands to provide medical and DNA samples to Dutch investigators examining human remains flown over from the site.
They then flew to Kiev and made their way to Donetsk and then on to the site without any armed escort.
Her father had told the newspaper The Australian that his hopes were raised by news reports that relatives who called the phones of loved ones on the flight had them answered by strangers.
"We go to the site where the aircraft was attacked," he was quoted as saying. "We want to search for her.
"Nobody speaks about survivors and there must be a reason for it. There is some evidence there are survivors still."