Ukrainian cargo plane crash: eight crew members killed

The Serbian Defense Minister said on Sunday that all eight crew members died in the crash of a Ukrainian cargo plane in Greece en route from Serbia to Bangladesh carrying military supplies.
All eight bodies were found and are now on the wanted list.

During a briefing by the Greek fire brigade earlier in the day, spokesman Ioannis Artopoyos stressed that experts at the crash site did not find any “hazardous materials”.

“Unfortunately, according to the information we received, eight crew members died as a result of the crash,” Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said at a press conference.
An Antonov An-12 took off from Niš Airport in southern Serbia at 8:40 pm Saturday (Sunday, 4:40 am EST) carrying “about 11 tons of military supplies,” namely mines from the private Serbian company Valir. To the Ministry of Defense of Bangladesh, Mr. Stefanovich said.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that eight aircrew were Ukrainian citizens. “The preliminary cause of the accident is the failure of one of the engines,” spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook.

Denis Bogdanovich, CEO of Meridian, the Ukrainian airline that operates the aircraft, also told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that the entire crew was Ukrainian.

Aerial view of the crash site.

The crash site in the village of Paleochori. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that the preliminary cause of the accident was an engine failure. Source: AP / Giannis Papanikos / AP

Witnesses said they saw the burning private Antonov and heard explosions. Videos posted to social media show the plane was engulfed in a giant fireball as it crashed to the ground late Saturday night.

The wreckage is scattered over a wide area, and the crash site, surrounded by fields, was visible from the air, a photographer for the AFP news agency said.
“We heard a deafening noise (and saw) a fireball approaching the ground. Then there was an explosion,” Sophia, a mother of three from the nearby village of Antifilipi, told the Athens News Agency (ANA).

The Greek fire brigade said the plane crashed around 11:00 pm (Sunday, 6:00 am AEST) near the village of Paleochori, about 23 kilometers northwest of the northern Greek city of Kavala.

Two ambulances parked on the side of the road.

Ambulances near the accident site. All eight bodies were found and are now on the wanted list. Source: AARP, EPA / Zoitsas Laskaris

Toxic fumes

Greek air traffic control said the plane requested permission for an emergency landing at Kavala airport, but did not make it.
The Bangladeshi military confirmed that they were the intended recipients of the shipment.
The plane was carrying “training mortars purchased from Serbia for the Bangladeshi army” and border guards, the military’s public relations department said.

“There were no weapons in the party, and it was insured,” the department added.

Fire at the crash site.

Flames and smoke are visible at the crash site. Eyewitnesses said they saw a private cargo plane on fire and heard explosions. Source: AARP, EPA / Zoitsas Laskaris

Biological and chemical weapons specialists from the Greek army consolidated the crash site on Sunday, giving rescue teams “everything clear,” Artopoyos, a fire department spokesman, said. The service then opened safe passageways for rescuers to retrieve the bodies, he added.

Two firefighters were rushed to the hospital early Sunday morning with difficulty breathing from the poisonous fumes.
Villagers were forbidden from entering the nearby fields until the debris and unexploded ordnance were removed by the authorities.

People living within a two-kilometer radius of the crash site were asked to stay inside and wear masks late Saturday night.

Engine on fire

The ANA said it would launch an investigation into the cause of the crash, and late Sunday afternoon there were reports that search parties had found a flight recorder.
Local resident Giorgos Archontopoulos told the Greek state broadcaster ERT that he sensed something was wrong as soon as he heard the noise of an aircraft overhead.
“I went outside and saw that the engine was on fire,” he said.
“If it had crashed a few seconds earlier, it would have hit our house,” Michalis Emmanouilidis, 80, told ANA, visibly shaken.
Ukraine’s consul in Thessaloniki, Vadym Sabluk, visited the area on Sunday, and the Greek Foreign Ministry offered “sincere condolences” to the families of the victims.
ANA said Sabluk confirmed the identity of the crew and the plane’s destination.
The Serbian Defense Minister said that the supply of weapons is not related to the Russian war in Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, some media suggested that the plane was carrying weapons destined for Ukraine, but this is completely untrue,” he said.