Russian airline survivors say lightning struck plane

by Kim Boateng Posted on May 7th, 2019

The survivors of a horrific airline disaster that left dozens dead when a Russian passenger jet burst into flames on landing say the aircraft was struck by lightning.

Pilot Denis Yevdokimov made the shocking revelation as investigators continue to determine the official cause of the fiery crash landing that killed 41 of the 78 people on board.

Mr Yevdokimov said he switched the Sukhoi Superjet-100 plane to emergency control mode after losing radio communications due to a lightning strike.

Speaking to the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Mr Yevdokimov did not specify if the plane was struck directly.

“We managed to restore communication through the emergency frequency on our radio connection. But the link was only for a short time and kept cutting out … It was possible to say only a few words,” he said.

State TV quoted flight attendant Tatiana Kasatnika as saying “We took off, got into a cloud, there was strong hail, and at that moment there was a pop and some kind of flash, like electricity”.

Investigators have started trying to piece together why the Aeroflot jet, which had been flying from Moscow to the northern Russian city of Murmansk, was forced to make an emergency landing and why that landing went so badly wrong.

Survivor Pyotr Yegorov said the Russian jet was hit by lightning shortly after take-off.

“The landing was rough – I almost passed out from fear,” he told the BBC.

Another witness said the plane “jumped like a grasshopper” as it skidded down the runway at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

Ничего себе он закозлил… Ад— Руслан Левиев (@RuslanLeviev) May 5, 2019

Heroic actions

Passenger Dmitry Khlebushkin praised the heriocs of the plane’s flight attendants.

“I’m alive only thanks to the stewardesses,” he said.

“The girls stood there in the smoke, it was dark, extremely hot, but they pulled people out and helped them get down the chutes.”

While the plane was still travelling, Ms Kasatkina said passengers were heading for the exits and even phoning relatives as the plane burned.

“It all happened really fast, in a matter of seconds… I was pushing passengers out. I grabbed each one by the collar, so that they wouldn’t delay the evacuation,” she told Russian news site Lenta.

Asked by reporters if the Sukhoi planes should now be grounded pending the outcome of an investigation, Russia’s transport minister Yevgeny Ditrikh said “there are no grounds for that”.

Both flight recorders have been recovered from the plane.

Russian Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying investigators are looking into three main possibilities behind the cause of the disaster – insufficient pilot qualifications, equipment failure, and weather.

Video on Russian TV showed the Aeroflot plane’s underside bursting into flames and spewing black smoke after making a hard landing at Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday night.

Transport Minister Ditrikh said 33 passengers and four crew members survived the inferno.

Six were in a serious condition and receiving treatment. One US citizen was killed in the incident, US authorities said.

Those who escaped leapt out of the Sukhoi SSJ100 airliner down inflatable emergency slides and ran across the tarmac.

Storms were passing through the Moscow area when the jet caught fire during the emergency landing.

EARLIER: At least 41 dead as Russian airliner lands in ball of flames

Russian authorities say up to 41 people have died after a passenger jet burst into flames as it was forced to make a dramatic emergency landing.

The Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft was en route from Moscow to the northern Russian city of Murmansk when it turned back due to unspecified “technical reasons”, according to a statement from the airline.

“There were 78 people on board, including crew members,” the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement on its website Monday (Australian time).

“According to updated information, 37 of them survived.”

Investigators earlier said 13 people had been killed in the plane crash.

Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport said the plane burst into flames when it was forced to make a “hard landing”.

Among the confirmed deaths were two children, The Associated Press reported, citing investigators.

Television footage showed a plane landing with its tail ablaze. On the ground, black smoke billowed from the plane.

BREAKING: Aeroflot #SU1492 Moscow Sheremetyevo to Murmansk (Sukhoi SuperJet SSJ100 RA-89098) declared an emergency & returned to SVO on fire at 1530UTC. Passengers seen evacuating. Extent of casualties not yet known. More soon…

Video credit & more videos: @dimsmirnov175— Airport Webcams (@AirportWebcams) May 5, 2019

Many passengers evacuated the grounded plane on inflatable slides, which were automatically deployed after the hard landing.

Agencies reported various figures on the number of injured, from five to more than 10.

Six people were hospitalised, according to Russia’s Emergencies Ministry.

Interfax news agency reported the tail was completely burned and said a rescue team was trying to find survivors in that part of the plane.

The airport reportedly received a distress signal from crew shortly after take-off but it failed to make an emergency landing. The aircraft was able to make a landing on the second attempt.

The Flightradar24 tracking service showed the plane made two circles around Moscow and landed after about 45 minutes.

Flight #SU1492 took off from Sheremetyevo Airport at 15:03 UTC time (18:03 local time).

15:11 squawk changed to 7600 (radio failure)

15:25 squawk changed to 7700 (emergency)

15:30 ADS-B signal becomes bad (inconsistent) below 600 feet— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) May 5, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a “thorough investigation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told TASS.

“All instructions have been given to conduct the most thorough investigation, [to carry out] the necessary orders to find out the cause of this accident,” said Mr Peskov, was quoted as saying.

The incident caused at least 53 flights to be delayed and one cancelled, Interfax reported.

Airport officials told the news agency that the airport was operating “in a limited mode with one runway”.

The airline said a criminal investigation had been launched to determine whether the pilots breached air safety rules.

Passenger Kristian Kostov, a former Bulgarian Eurovision contestant, witnessed the fire from inside another plane at the airport.

“A lot of passengers just started screaming … There was an airplane crash right in front of us right now. We are literally shaking,” Mr Kostov tweeted.

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