Scores die in worst airshow crash
LVIV, Ukraine (CNN) -- Seventy-eight people have been killed in what has become the world's worst airshow disaster after a fighter jet crashed into a crowd at an airfield in the Ukraine.
The Russian Sukhoi Su-27 warplane was performing aerobatics at the show in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv when it plunged to the ground at Skniliv airfield and exploded in a huge fireball.
Around 115 people were injured and have been taken to hospital, the country's Emergencies Ministry said.
The aircraft had just performed a steep turn when it appeared to tumble and enter a steep dive from which it failed to recover.
Spectators watched in horror as the plane smashed into onlookers and ploughed across the airfield before bursting into flames.
Bohdan Hupalo, 18, told The Associated Press he was posing for a picture when the plane came down.
He dived to the ground and saw the jet fly over him, missing by only a few metres.
"There weren't any survivors among those who fell down late -- they were cut down like grass," he said. When Hupalo opened his eyes, he said he was surrounded by human remains.
"I will never forget this tragedy," he said from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for an injured back.
The pilots ejected just before the impact and at least one parachute was seen to flare open as fierce flames and plumes of black smoke erupted from the wreckage.
Dazed and bloodied survivors of the tragedy looked in shock and horror at bodies of the victims strewn over the ground. (Eyewitness)
The weather was partly cloudy and fair at the time, and did not appear to be a factor in the accident.
CNN Moscow Bureau chief Jill Dougherty said the plane was performing aerobatics to mark the 60th anniversary of a division of Ukraine's airforce.
The two pilots of the aircraft survived, she added.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said has he wants to ban military air shows following the disaster.
Speaking at the site of the tragedy, a shocked Kuchma said the ex-Soviet state's air force should concentrate on their military duties rather than performing for crowds.
"In my opinion we need to stop these kind of air performances... People should do their military business and should train, not take part in these air shows," Kuchma told local television stations.
Struggling to speak, the veteran leader said the worst thing about the crash was that "innocent people died."
Kuchma has also ordered the secretary of the Defence and Security Council, Yevhen Marchuk, to lead a government commission to investigate the case, The Associated Press said.
Ukraine's post-Soviet armed forces have been struggling with financial difficulties since the collapse of communism a decade ago, Reuters news agency said.
Their reputation was tarnished last year when a stray test missile brought down a Russian airliner.
The Su-27 amazed audiences at its first appearances at Western airshows in the 1990s with aerobatic manoeuvres previously unknown for a twin-engined jet aircraft of its size. (More)
Besides featuring Su-27s and Mig-29 warplanes, the Lviv airshow also included flights of gliders, light-engine planes and parachute jumping, the Interfax news agency reported.
In Ramstein in what was then West Germany in 1988, 70 people died and hundreds were injured when three jets from an Italian Air Force display team collided in mid-air and one crashed into the crowd. (More crashes)
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
WORLD TOP STORIES:
|Back to the top||
© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.