No survivors in plane crash carrying Polish delegation
Polish President Lech Kaczyński, travelling with up to 133 other people, has been killed when his plane crashed in Russia due to dense fog while approaching a Russian airport today. Officials say there are no survivors.
The Polish Central Bank governor, Slawomir Skrzypek, and other members of the Polish government, were amongst those onboard. The crash was near Smolensk airport in western Russia.
Kaczyński’s wife was killed along with him when the Tupolev Tu-154 went down; the trip to Russia was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when thousands of Polish prisoners of war and civilians were killed by the Soviets.
Sergei Antufyev, the governor of the Smolensk area said on Russian television that no one survived the crash; the claim was backed by Polish news agencies as well. “As it was preparing for landing, the Polish president’s aircraft did not make it to the landing strip,” he commented.
“According to preliminary reports, it got caught up in the tops of trees, fell to the ground and broke up into pieces. There are no survivors in that crash. We are clarifying how many people there were in the [Polish] delegation. According to preliminary reports, 85 members of the delegation and the crew,” he added. The exact passenger count is not certain, however, with the Russian police giving 134 as the number.
Television footage showed the burning plane with its charred parts scattered in the forest where it crashed. The plane crashed approximately 2 km (1.3 miles) from Smolensk airport.
“The plane caught fire after the crash. Teams began attempting to pull out passengers from the badly damaged airplane,” commented a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry from Warsaw. Tthe chief of Poland’s military force, Franciszek Gagor and Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer were among the victims.
With the Polish president deceased, the speaker of the lower house of the parliament, currently Bronislaw Komorowski, takes over as head of state, Jerzy Smolinski, Komorowski’s assistant, told the Reuters news agency.
The Tupolev Tu-154, which was operated by the Polish Air Force, made its debut flight in 1990. 2,725 people have died in the 66 crashes involving this plane.
According to the flight manifest, those on board were:
- Lech Kaczyński, the President of Poland
- Maria Kaczyńska, the first lady of Poland
- Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last President of the Polish government-in-exile
- Jerzy Szmajdziński, the Deputy Speaker of the Sejm
- Władysław Stasiak, Chief of Office of the President of the Republic of Poland
- Aleksander Szczygło, head of the National Security Bureau
- Paweł Wypych, Secretary of State in the Office of the President of the Republic of Poland
- Mariusz Handzlik, Undersecretary of State in the Office of the President of the Republic of Poland
- Andrzej Kremer, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
- General Franciszek Gągor, Chief of the Polish Army General Staff
- Andrzej Przewoźnik, Secretary-General of Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa and several members of the Sejm. Sławomir Skrzypek
Several other Polish government figures were in the plane as well. None of the passengers survived the crash.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was immediately appointed by Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russia as the head of the commision to investigate the crash. The latter also sent Sergei Shoigu, Minister of emergency situations of Russia to the site of the crash.