Odiase is one of two valedictorians at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ukraine said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday as it flew over the country, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the plane.
As plumes of black smoke rose up near a rebel-held village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the crash site 25 miles from the Russian border.
The plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage — which included body parts and the belongings of passengers — was scattered over a wide area.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash.
The village of Grabovo is currently under the control of the separatists and the area has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it received notification from Ukrainian aviation authorities that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 GMT some 20 miles from Tamak waypoint, approximately 30 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border.
It said the plane had 280 passengers and 15 crew aboard a Boeing 777 that left Amsterdam at 12:15 p.m. and was to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6:10 a.m. Friday.
Note: Our most updated interview, at 3:06pm with AlanCullison, is at the top of the page.
On the scene at the crash site
“We are leaving the scene of the aircraft crash because it’s getting really dark. There were parts of the plane scattered around a few kilometers, some of them still burning. There were bodies and parts of the bodies also scattered around. The territory is held by rebels so far, pro-Russian rebels.”
“[Here,] there are rebel forces; emergency services of the Ukraine, I think from the Donetsk region; and journalists. And some local people, because there is a village here.”
On whether the plane broke apart before impact
“The plane definitely broke up before impact because the middle part is really really far from each other. We cannot see the tail. The parts are on their own, a big distance from each other. The bodies are also a big distance from the crash — so I think people were falling out of the crashing plane just in the air.”