Air Tragedy Hits Nation On Eve Of Independence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Two days before the country was to celebrate its 15th anniversary of Independence, Ukraine once again became the scene of a terrible air disaster.

Emergency ministry workers collect bodies from the wreckage of a Russian Tupolev Tu-154 airplane of Pulkovo Airlines which crashed, 45 km (30 miles) north of the regional town of Donetsk

All 170 passengers and crew aboard a Russian airliner were killed when the plane crashed into a field 30 miles north of the eastern city of Donetsk at around 3 p.m. on Aug. 22.

Eyewitnesses of the crash said the Tu-154, headed from the Crimea resort town of Anapa to Russia’s St. Petersburg, was flying amidst rain and lightning when it suddenly went into a loud tail spin, bursting into flames as it hit the ground.

As the Post went to press on Aug. 23, investigators were still combing through the wreckage, trying to identify the victims and determine the cause of the tragedy.

According to preliminary reports by airport officials in St. Petersburg, as many as half a dozen foreigners from Western Europe may have been on board.

Around a fourth of the passengers were children reportedly under the age of 12, many returning home from their summer vacation.

The flight recorders, or so-called black boxes, have been recovered from the site, where Russian and Ukrainian cleanup crews numbering almost 500 were deployed.

"Right now, it is difficult to determine the cause of the accident," Ukraine's Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky said in televised remarks. He noted, however, that weather had been severe, and suggested the plane might have flown into a cyclone.

Ukrainian officials said a storm with heavy winds, driving rain and flashes of lightning was raging through the region at the time.

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova, citing information from her Ukrainian counterparts, said the plane was likely hit by lightning.

The pilot asked to make an emergency landing before disappearing from the radar screens at around 2:30 p.m. (1130GMT), said Mykhaylo Korsakov, an Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman in Donetsk.

Rudkovsky said the pilot was given permission to change course by about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the east.

The wreckage was found about an hour after the plane disappeared from radar screens in Sukha Balka, a village about 400 miles (640 kilometers) east of Kyiv.

Under sunny skies Aug. 23, fragments of the plane - its engines, parts of the landing gear, the nose and chunks of the fuselage - were scattered around fields and a small forest.

Authorities had stretched red tape around a 700 square meters (7,500 square feet) area as investigators hunted for the recorders.

Vadim Seryogin, head of the team from the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, said Russian investigators, prosecutors and security service officials were at the site.

Authorities planned to begin collecting the bodies later Aug. 23, and at least 50 relatives were expected to visit the crash scene, said Vasily Nalyotenko, deputy general director of Pulkovo Airlines.

Of the 170 people on board, 45 were children, Pulkovo Airlines deputy director Anatoly Samoshin told reporters at the St. Petersburg airport. The list of passengers, most of whom were from St. Petersburg, appeared to include many families.

Preliminary information indicated a citizen of Netherlands, France, Finland and two Germans were among those who died, Nalyotenko said.

He said the 39-year-old captain of the crew was an experienced pilot who had flown 11,900 hours.

The crash was the third major incident involving Russia's aviation industry this year. It came less than two months after an Airbus A-310 of the Russian airline S7 skidded off a runway and burst into flames on July 9 in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, killing 124 people.

On May 3, an A-320 of the Armenian airline Armavia crashed into the Black Sea while trying to land in the Russian resort city of Sochi in rough weather, killing all 113 people aboard.

Russian-made Tu-154s are widely used by Russian airlines for many regional flights.

Ukraine is also no stranger to air tragedy.

In late July 2002, Ukraine was the scene of the world’s worst air-show disaster near Lviv when a fighter jet crashed into a crowd of spectators, killing almost 80 people.

In October 2001, a Tu-154, flying from Tel-Aviv (Israel) to Novosibirsk (Russia) with 78 people on board, crashed in the Black Sea on Oct. 4, 2001, after being shot down by a stray anti-aircraft missile launched during a Ukrainian military exercise.

As with the earlier disasters, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has opened a criminal case into the Aug. 22 Donetsk crash.

Aug. 23 was declared a day of mourning, with festive events planned to mark the country’s Independence Day celebrations in the center of Kyiv put off until Aug. 26.

The air tragedy sends a dark cloud over Donbass, whose leaders have been triumphant since taking control over most seats in the government and parliament earlier this summer in a surprise comeback from their routing during the 2004 Orange Revolution.

A bilateral commission has been set up to investigate the disaster with top officials from Russia and Ukraine taking part.

The Russian Cabinet of Ministers has promised assistance to the families of the victims.

St. Petersburg governor Valentin Matvienko announced on Aug. 22 that the city would pay compensation to the victims’ families.

Source: Kyiv Post


César said…
Hi, thanks for the information. Please I need a favor, if you don't mind: I'm looking for the list of victims, I need to know if there was any argentinian victim. Reading the news you posted I noticed that the victims were from Germany, France, Finland and Netherlands. I emailed the embasy in Argentina but they haven't aswered yet.

I also tried to check the website of the airline. I found the list but it is written in cirilic alphabet or something, so I couldn't understand.

If you have some information I would really apreciate it. My e-mail is: Thanks again for the articles, and thanks for your time.
calystegia said…
Connaissez-vous les coordonnées (latitude et longitude) de ce village de Sukha Balka ?

Do you know latitude and longitude of this village of Sukha Bulka ?

Merci d'avance.