Law-enforcement agencies of Russia’s Smolensk region, have confirmed that all passengers and crewmembers on board the crashed Tu-154 jetliner of the Polish president died.
The crash killed 97 people, 88 of them were members of the official Polish delegation. Black boxes have been found on the crash site, Itar-Tass reports.
The plane crashed when trying to land on the military airdrome of Smolensk. The fog was very thick, and the Polish pilots attempted to land the plane three times. The fourth attempt resulted in the tragedy. Specialists say that the plane brushed against tree tops and crashed in flames.
“I was going to my country house and I saw black smoke rising from the forest. I drove near and saw the tail piece of the plane. There was only the tail piece – it probably came off when the plane hit the ground,” an eyewitness said.
The crew of the plane did not follow the instructions from flight control officers at the airdrome, where the jetliner was going to land.
“The flight administration group at the airdrome saw that the crew had increased the rate of descent and started descending below the glide slope. The flights supervisor ordered the crew to put the aircraft over. The pilots did not listen, and the supervisor ordered them to land on the reserve airfield. Nevertheless, the crew continued to descend. Unfortunately, it all ended tragically,” Lieutenant General Alexander Alyoshin, deputy chief of Russia's air force, told Russian state TV.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has arrived at the scene of the plane crash in which Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 96 other people perished earlier on Saturday, Pravda.Ru reports.
The plane carrying Kaczynski, his wife, and a delegation of senior officials crashed while attempting to land in thick fog at an airport in west Russia's Smolensk. The plane was taking the president to a memorial ceremony for Polish officers killed by Soviet secret police in 1940.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier named Putin head of a commission on the disaster.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced on Saturday a national day of mourning after President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and an official delegation of senior officials were killed in a plane crash in western Russia.
"On Monday, April 12, Russia will hold a national day of mourning."
The body of Polish President Lech Kaczynski may have been found in the wreckage of the plane that crashed earlier on Saturday in western Russia, a highly-placed police source told RIA Novosti.
Speaking from the scene of the clean-up operation, the source said however that "additional tests, including DNA," would be needed to identify many of the bodies.
Kaczynski was on his way to a ceremony in nearby Katyn to commemorate the memory of some 20,000 Polish officers killed by Soviet secret police during World War Two. The Soviet-made Tu-154 hit trees as it approached Smolensk airport in thick fog.
Russia's Rossiya-24 television aired footage of the crash scene, showing wreckage of the plane scattered across a field with the plane's wing sticking up.
The delegation also included the chief of the armed forces general staff and central bank head, RIA Novosti reports.