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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

First the Horror of the Crash, then the Horror of the "Rescue"

Yesterday, LR reported on yet another plane crash in Russia. Now it turns out that the rescue effort mounted by Russia was even more horrifying than the crash itself. Reuters reports:

Survivors of a Russian plane crash cut fellow passengers out of their seatbelts as they hung upside down in the smouldering fuselage, Russian newspapers quoted eyewitnesses as saying on Monday. Six people were killed when the Tu-134 airliner with 57 people on board crash-landed in heavy fog and flipped over on Saturday near the Volga river city of Samara. The front section of the fuselage broke off in the impact.

Survivors said it was a miracle the death toll was not higher. They said passengers and crew had to rescue themselves from the wreckage because airport emergency services were slow to reach the crash scene.

"The rescuers took 20 minutes to get to us. I know it was foggy but we were right there on the runway," Komosomolskaya Pravda newspaper quoted passenger Vadim Titlov as saying. "We dragged our neighbours out (of the plane). We went through the cabin looking for a knife to cut the seatbelts." He said because there were no fire-fighters immediately in sight, passengers used their hands to heap snow onto a fire that broke out at the spot where the port wing had broken away from the fuselage. "We did everything ourselves," said passenger Andrei Beglitsin. "We put out the fire as best we could, and we rescued people from the plane."

Another survivor, Oleg Nosenko, was sitting at the front of the aircraft and escaped through the gaping hole where the nose had snapped off. "I lost consciousness and then came to when someone was shoving me and saying: 'Get out, quick!'" he told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The flight data recorders, or "black boxes," have been flown to Moscow where they will be examined by crash investigators. Carrier Utair, which owns the crashed jet, said it believed poor weather caused the crash. But newspapers quoted a crew member as saying a problem was logged earlier with one of the aircraft's avionics systems which helps the pilot line the jet up with the runway on landing. Aviation authorities have ordered carriers to phase out the Soviet-designed Tu-134. Russia's President Vladimir Putin last year ordered an urgent review of aviation safety after a spate of crashes in Russia or involving Russian aircraft killed hundreds of people.

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