Distressing new footage has emerged of passengers fleeing from an inferno jet as the Russian authorities today charged the plane’s captain with negligence after it was hit by lightning.
Forty-one people died in the blaze after the Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 crash landed at Sheremetyevo, Moscow’s business international airport.
A video that forms part of the criminal investigation shows flames more than 100ft high engulfing the aircraft, yet 37 escaped from the horror.
The Aeroflot jet crashed on to a runway at Sheremetyevo, Moscow’s business international airport, after being hit by lightning and was engulfed in flames
Emergency services fight the 100ft flames after the plane crash landed and erupted into a toxic inferno which killed 41 people
Captain Denis Evdokimov, 42, has claimed he is being made a scapegoat after his Murmansk-bound domestic flight was hit by lightning soon after takeoff.
He faces up to seven years in jail if convicted. He returned to the airport making a rough ‘jumping’ emergency landing which led to fire engulfing the plane on 5 May last year, separate footage shows.
Denis Evdokimov, 42, had been formally charged with violation of safety rules and the negligent control of his plane leading mass deaths, harm to health and major damage
The new video shows the plane spin to a halt with its rear engulfed in toxic flames.
After some 17 seconds the first front chute is opened and four seconds later the first passenger escapes onto the tarmac.
The second chute is opened after 30 seconds.
Passengers from the front of the plane slide out of the aircraft and run from the burning Superjet.
The emergency services are seen arriving and seeking to extinguish the inferno.
The Russian Investigative Committee announced today that Evdokimov had been formally charged with violation of safety rules and the negligent control of his plane leading mass deaths, harm to health and major damage.
His failure to control the lightning-hit Superjet ‘resulted in the destruction … of the aircraft’ killing 40 passengers and one crew member.
Ten people were injured. In all, 37 people escaped alive from the carnage.
State investigators in charge of ‘particularly important cases’ say the actions of air traffic control and the emergency services on the ground were probed.
They were found not to be responsible for the loss of life. Nor were there problems with the aircraft to prevent a safe emergency landing, said the committee.
The first front chute is opened after 17 seconds and four seconds later the first passenger escapes onto the tarmac in Moscow
The second chute is opened after 30 seconds allowing more passengers to escape the inferno
A total 37 passengers escaped the flames in May with ten people injured as passengers from the front of the plane were able to slide out the aircraft
‘Investigators and experts studied the data of the flight recorders of the crashed aircraft, according to which during the flight the aircraft adequately responded to the pilot’s control actions,’ said a statement.
The captain’s lawyer Natalya Mitusova claims the experienced Aeroflot pilot is being made a scapegoat after suspicions that the authorities are seeking to protect the reputation of the Superjet, a Russian-made aircraft over which safety concerns have been raised.
She claimed the aircraft did not ‘obey’ the pilot as he took manual control of the aircraft after the lightning strike.
The dispute centres on what happened to the stricken plane when it was hit by lightning soon after taking off from Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.
Prosecutors say the pilot botched the landing, coming in at too steep an angle. This resulted in the rough landing when broken landing gear pierced the fuel tank, igniting the plane in flames. Most of the 41 victims of the disaster died from carbon monoxide poisoning or were burned alive.
The back and middle of the plane was lost in the fire with most of the 40 passengers who died sitting in this part of the plane
Forensic experts working at the wreckage of the Russian-made Superjet after it ‘was thrown from side to side’ and did not respond to Evdokimov’s movements of the controls due to paralysis following the lightning strike, according to prosecutors
Mitusova said the Superjet was ‘was thrown from side to side’ and did not respond to his movements of the controls due to paralysis after the emergency.
There was an ‘incorrect reaction of the aircraft’ to the pilot’s actions in only the fourth time a Superjet had been landed fully manually, she said.
The captain also claims that once on the ground a rear plane door was opened in violation of his orders and this led to the inferno on the exterior of the Superjet engulfing the passenger cabin.
Most passengers who died were sitting in the rear or middle section of the aircraft.
Without the rear emergency door having been opened, passengers would have had time to leave the cabin, claims the pilot.
The captain claims a rear plane door was opened in violation of his orders and this led to the inferno on the exterior of the Superjet engulfing the passenger cabin
Investigators check the documents of the victims. They say the Superjet has been hit by lightning on 16 previous occasions, but this was the only time it led to catastrophe
‘Someone from the crew or passengers opened the door, after which the fire entered the cabin,’ said Mitusova.
Evdokimov’s legal team also allege ground rescue services were slow to get to the scene.
The video was cut so it is not possible to be sure of the time it took before spraying started – but passengers were still emerging at this point.
Investigators say the Superjet has been hit by lightning on 16 previous occasions, but this was the only time it led to catastrophe.
Heroic Aeroflot flight attendants saved dozens of those on board the Moscow to Murmansk flight but 41 perished in the inferno either burned alive or overcome by toxic fumes.
Prosecutors want a maximum seven years jail for the Evdokimov, whose father was a respected military pilot and Soviet air force major general.
Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee, said: ‘Actions by Evdokimov violated the existing regulations and led to the destruction and outbreak of fire.
‘As a result, 40 passengers and one crew member were killed, and (ten) others were badly injured.’
In the aftermath of the horror, there were claims of serious technical problems on the Superjet – a plane supported by Vladimir Putin – were to blame.