Russian plane crash survivor says God will ‘judge’ people who stopped to grab bags as dozens died in fire behind them

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Pilot inexperience, equipment failure or bad weather may have contributed to the crash.

A survivor of the fiery Russian plane crash that killed 41 people has expressed disbelief at passengers who grabbed their luggage during the scramble to escape the burning aircraft.

Key points:

  • Mr Savchenko asked people “not to persecute” passengers who grabbed their bags
  • The pilot said he followed emergency landing procedures, but reports suggest no fuel was dumped to lighten the load
  • The pilot also said the plane lost radio communications after it was hit by a lightning strike

Mikhail Savchenko was on board the Aeroflot plane which burst into flames after it made a hard landing shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

He posted a video from the ground showing people running from the burning wreck with what looked like bags in their hands.

The footage prompted criticism, with concerns the passengers delayed the emergency evacuation by grabbing their luggage from overhead lockers.

“I do not know what to say about people who ran out with bags,” Mr Savchenko said in a translated post on Facebook.

“God is their judge.

Smoke billows from burning plane with people running away from the wreck.

“But I really want to ask them not to persecute them, I am sure that it is very hard for them now.

“I do not think that at least one person in this burning hell coolly and deliberately dragged suitcases.

Mikhail Savchenko Russian plane crash survivor

“I do not know how the psyche works in such situations, [that is] a question for the experts.”

Another survivor, Dmitry Kalinin, said there was no stampede of people trying to get off the plane. 

“There wasn’t a crush,” he said. 

“Well, it went from the 10th row to the evacuation zone, but there wasn’t a crush.”

Pilot Denis Evdokimov said he followed procedures for landing with full fuel tanks.

But the crew reportedly did not dump any fuel to lighten the plane — a procedure which is common for flights that have to land soon after take-off.

A burned out hull of a plane, with melted plastic clumped on the interior and mounds of debris on the ground.

The pilot said he was not certain why the plane landed hard.

Video showed flames bursting from the jet’s underside as it touched down, then raging across the rear of the Sukhoi SSJ100’s fuselage within seconds as the airliner bounced down the runway.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.VIDEO 1:09

The aircraft caught fire in a hard emergency landing.ABC NEWS

Bad weather and lightning strikes

Mr Evdokimov said the plane had lost radio communications because of a lightning strike, but it was not clear if that precipitated the emergency landing.

Flight attendant Tatiana Kasatnika said there was a sharp flash soon after the Aeroflot flight took off.

“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,” she said in a video posted on YouTube.

Storms were passing through the Moscow area when the plane landed.

Russia’s main investigative agency said both of the plane’s flight recorders — data and voice — were recovered from the charred wreckage. 

Agency spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko was also quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying that investigators were looking into three main possibilities behind the cause of the disaster: inexperienced pilots, equipment failure and bad weather.

A crane lingers over a front portion of a wingless, burnt-out plane at an airport.

Plane fleet plagued with defects

The SSJ100 went into service in 2011, introduced as a replacement for outdated Soviet-designed aircraft.

Also known as the Superjet, it was heralded as a new phase for Russia’s civil aviation industry.

But the plane has been troubled by concerns about defects in the horizontal stabilisers.

In 2017 Russia’s aviation authority ordered inspection of all Superjets in the country because of the problems.

A collapsed and blacked half of the plane is covered in white foam that looks like snow.

Mexican airline Interjet grounded Superjets in December 2016 and later said it was phasing them out of the fleet.

On Monday Russian Transportation Minister Yevegny Dietrich said it was too early to decide whether to ground the planes in Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the decision was not within President Vladimir Putin’s power.

More than 8,231 passengers have died in Aeroflot crashes — more than any other airline, according to a report in the UK Telegraph last year. 

A far-off second is Air France, with 1,783 fatalities.

A plane lands in flame during an emergency landing.
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