‘Plane was burning like PLASTIC CUP’: Russian jet crash survivor recalls harrowing escape from fire
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A passenger from Aeroflot Flight SU1492, who is considered the last person to escape from the flame-engulfed plane, says the jet turned into a death trap within seconds, leaving little chance of survival for people at the back.
Oleg Molchanov is one of the 37 survivors of the deadly crash-landing and fire at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday, in which 41 people were killed. He is also one of the few who agreed to share his harrowing experience with the media. The 35-year-old resident from Murmansk, who was returning home from vacation, told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper that the plane was hit by lightning which forced the pilot to make an emergency landing.
“Most of the passengers remained in their seats, as my wife and I did. The plane was burning like a plastic cup; the window in my row melted away in seconds. Just after the airliner stopped, I pushed my wife towards the exit. She was one of the first to go down the evacuation slide,” he said.
According to preliminary results of a probe into the causes of the disaster, the plane’s ultimate demise was caused by fuel spilling out after the aircraft hit the tarmac. It then caught fire due to malfunctioning engines. Molchanov says the smoke and confusion may have caused some passengers to run toward the back of the plane rather than the front even though the fire made it impossible to escape there.
“There was smoke and fire in the tail section. Rear slides most likely never deployed, but passengers from the rear must have instinctively run towards the tail,” he said.
But even if the slides did unfold, I doubt they had any chance to survive because by the time the plane stopped the rear was all in black smoke. It was hell-fire there
Molchanov says he had to crawl towards the exit to avoid fainting from toxic smoke. Once near the door, he stayed to assist a flight attendant who was helping other passengers to reach the slide, he said.
“We carried three people out, two men and a woman. After we dragged out the third one, Sergey, the flames roar and it was clear staying there was dangerous,” he said, adding that apparently he was the last person to leave the aircraft alive.
He said he didn’t believe rescue crews at the airport were late to arrive at the scene – which was one of the popular theories about why so many people died in the crash.
“Everything was fine with it. Somebody even offered a bottle of vodka to the passengers,” he said. “It was taken away quickly. One moment it was there and the next it wasn’t.”
He also dismissed another rumor, which claimed passengers from the business class were trying to save their luggage and prevented their less-wealthy counterparts in the back of the plane from getting to the exit in time.
The surviving couple were flown to their home city of Murmansk on Monday morning, Molchanov said.
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