The miraculous survivor of a plane crash that killed 26 people felt “in a computer game” when the jet went down and exploded in a fireball.
A Ukrainian Air Force Antonov An-26 aircraft crashed a mile outside its airfield near Kharkiv just minutes after the crew commander asked to land due to an engine failure.
Cadet Vyacheslav Zolochevskyi, who survived the crash and explosion by jumping off the plane, looked around, saw his friend on fire and tried to put out the inferno.
Kharkiv administration head Oleksiy Kucher, who spoke to the cadet in the hospital, said: “He said it was like a computer game, when he got up he saw his friend burn.
“And he actually helped put out the flames on this man who was also taken to the hospital.”
The cadet he tried to save, Nikolai Mikitchenko, has since died.
Kucher said the lone survivor, in his early 20s, “don’t remember anything” when he lost consciousness at some point during the Friday night disaster.
The military transport aircraft carrying Air Force cadets crashed near a highway in northeast Ukraine and went up in flames.
Kucher added, “After passing by, he started putting out his colleague’s flames.
“He survived when he was on the plane. But physically he is in a satisfactory condition. “
Zolochevskyi’s mother, Irina Zolochevskaya, told how she feared he had died.
She said, “He’s alive. He jumped [out of the plane]managed to survive.
“When I heard about the disaster and read that it was training flights for cadets, I didn’t know what to do.
“I was afraid my son was gone too.”
Military doctor Eduard Khorshun said: “His condition is moderate.
“There is no danger to life, his condition is stable.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Saturday the causes of a military plane crash that killed 26 people would be investigated immediately and impartially.
Ukraine’s state rescue service said 27 people were on board the plane – seven crew members and 20 students.
Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook: “Yesterday, as a result of a terrible tragedy, Ukraine lost 26 of its worthy sons.
“I insist that the causes of this plane crash be resolved immediately and that the investigation is objective and impartial.”
He declared Saturday the day of mourning.
The Antonov An-26 plane crashed while trying to land during a training exercise, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said, adding that the black boxes containing flight data had been found.
The Ukrainian authorities said they are investigating four possible causes of the crash – a technical malfunction of the aircraft; inadequate crew performance; improper flight control performance; and inadequate maintenance.
The State Security Service, a Ukrainian law enforcement agency, said the plane crashed five minutes after the crew commander’s failure, after the twin-engine plane’s left engine failed.
“According to the preliminary information, the cadets did not control the aircraft directly – all flights were carried out by the crew commander,” said a statement from the State Security Service.
The cadets were from the Kharkiv University of the Air Force, which is run by the Ministry of Defense.
The government said training flights with similar types of aircraft have been suspended.