Some of the friends and family members of the 157 people killed on an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed last weekend made a grim pilgrimage to the scene of the disaster on Wednesday.

It was the first time that the victims’ families were allowed to visit the farmer’s field in Hejere, Ethiopia, where the plane went down, approximately 103 kilometres east of the capital of Addis Ababa.

As mourners gathered, diggers churned up the ground and searched through the soil, saving what they found -- passports, bits of clothing and business cards -- in plastic bags.

The remains of the plane, along with its internal recordings, have been gathered into piles to be taken away and studied by investigators.

Ethiopian Airlines said that it would be sending the Boeing 737 Max 8’s black boxes to Europe for analysis because there are concerns that one of the boxes -- the voice or data recorders -- may be too damaged to review in Ethiopia.

The farmers and the villagers in Hejere joined in the mourning, too.

“What happened in our country and village was heartbreaking,” said one local man. “We have no words.”

Another man, who saw the plane coming down, said it made a strange noise and then flew in different directions before it dove straight down into the ground.

“I thought maybe it would fall on our village,” he said. “When we arrived here it started to burn and burn. I will never forget this in my life.”