Pilot blamed for fatal fireball crash to be sent to grim Russian penal colony

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    A Russian pilot has been condemned to the world’s grimmest prisons after being blamed for a horror plane crash that claimed 41 lives.

    Denis Evdokimov – who was hospitalised after the 2019 crash– says he is being scapegoated and that the real cause of the crash is a design fault on the Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100.

    Aeroflot Flight 1492 was struck by lightning after taking off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport bound for Murmansk.

    Evdokimov turned the Superjet around and returned to Sheremetyevo but it veered off the runway and caught fire. Of the 78 on board, including five crew, 41 people died in the crash.

    R‌EAD MORE: Mystery surrounds airliner 'deliberately flown into a mountain' by pilots

    Accused of causing the tragedy through “improper control of the aircraft”, Evdokimov has denied any guilt, claiming the fault-prone Russian-built plane had technical problems for which he was made a scapegoat.

    But a court found him guilty of the “violation of safety rules of air transport, resulting in negligence causing serious harm to human health, death of two or more persons [and] major damage”, said the Russian Investigative Committee.

    ‌‌The crash investigation “refutes the defendant's version of a possible malfunction of the aircraft”.

    ‌“The court sentenced Evdokimov to six years' imprisonment to be served in a penal colony,” said a committee statement following a three year trial.

    He was also ordered to pay the equivalent of £22,250 to two of the crash victims and banned from flying as a pilot for three years.

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    The pilot said the lightning strike had disabled controls and he “did everything possible”.

    “No matter what risks this creates for the fate of my family, I will continue to seek to establish the true and reliable reasons for the tragic circumstances," he said.

    In court, one expert witness claimed that Evdokimov “dangerously speeded up the aircraft immediately before landing and, on top of that, put it into a dive”.‌

    • Russian plane bursts into fireball mid-air before horror crash on way to Ukraine

    Former designer at Sukhoi Design Bureau, Vadim Lukashevich, said: “I believe that this catastrophe is a consequence of a set of mistakes of pilots that began from the moment when lightning hit the plane. It caused problems but they were not critical….‌

    “The decision to return was right, but then the pilots had to remember they actually are pilots and had to fly the plane the way that was normal for international aviation 40 years ago, without autopilot.‌

    “To my knowledge, the commander of the aircraft Denis Evdokimov who has flown over 1,400 hours on SSJ-100 had never landed in [manual] Direct Mode.”

    Co-pilot Maxim Kuznetsov, 40, was hailed a hero after using a rope from the cockpit window. He then clambered up the emergency slide to rescue some of those trapped inside, including Captain Evdokimov.

    The Superjet has been strongly supported by Putin, but safety concerns were raised after Western sanctions relating to the Ukraine war began to limit the supply of high-tech spare parts.

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