Kaczynski poland plane crash 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WARSAW, Poland — Russian investigators said there were no technical
problems with the Soviet-made plane that crashed and killed the Polish
president and 95 others over the weekend, suggesting pilot error may
have been to blame.
The Tu-154 went down while trying to land Saturday in dense fog near
Smolensk airport in western Russia. All 96 passengers and crew aboard
were killed, including Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of
political, military and religious leaders.
They had been traveling in the government-owned plane to attend a
memorial at nearby Katyn forest honoring thousands of Polish military
officers who were executed 70 years ago by Josef Stalin's secret police.
The pilot had been warned of bad weather in Smolensk, and was advised
by traffic controllers to land elsewhere — which would have delayed the
Russian investigators have almost finished reading the flight recorders, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Bastrykin said.
"The readings confirm that there were no problems with the plane, and
that the pilot was informed about the difficult weather conditions, but
nevertheless decided to land," Bastrykin said during a briefing with
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Smolensk.
Bastrykin said the readings would be double checked, according to footage of the meeting broadcast Monday on Poland's TVN24.
The wreckage, meanwhile, will remain on site through midweek to help
speed the investigation, Russian Deputy Transport Minister Igor Levitin
Both Russia and Ukraine declared a day of mourning Monday, as Poles
struggled to come to terms with the national tragedy that eliminated so
many of their government and military leaders.
Tens of thousands watched as Kaczynski's body, returned Sunday to
Warsaw, was carried in a coffin by a hearse to the presidential palace.
An annual Holocaust memorial event at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Monday was
honoring Kaczynski and the other victims. Organizers of the March of
the Living — with some 10,000 Jewish youth marching over a mile between
the two parts of the former Nazi death camp — said those marching would
also remember Poland's elite killed in Saturday's crash.
Forensics experts from Poland and Russia were working to ID other
bodies, including first lady Maria Kaczynski, using DNA testing in many
cases. So far some 24 bodies have been identified, including Poland's
civil rights commissioner, Janusz Kochanowski.
Also aboard the Tupelov were the national bank president, the deputy
foreign minister, the army chaplain, the head of the National Security
Office, the deputy parliament speaker, the Olympic Committee head and
at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers.
The pilot was identified as Capt. Arkadiusz Protasiuk, 36, and the
co-pilot as Maj. Robert Grzywna, 36. Also on the cockpit crew were
Ensign Andrzej Michalak, 36, and Lt. Artur Zietek, 31.
Kaczynski's family, including his twin Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the former
prime minister, has not yet decided on a date for a funeral or burial.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he wants to attend, according to Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
The Polish president is survived by his mother, Jadwiga; twin brother, Jaroslaw; daughter, Marta, and two granddaughters.
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