Plane fire passenger lashed for taking bag
FIRED-up Russians are taking aim at a plane crash survivor who has been accused of "blocking" others from escaping the burning aircraft that crashed in Moscow on Sunday.
Dmitry Khlebushkin, who had been reportedly sitting in seat 10C on the downed Aeroflot jet, was spotted walking away from the blaze holding his backpack and later fronted the media to complain about not getting a refund.
Upon escaping the crash, in which 41 people died, he hit out at the airline, telling Russian reporters it was made up of "heartless and unprofessional people".
"I failed to get a refund for my ticket for 40 minutes," he said. "And in the end I did not get it at all."
However, he has now been targeted on Russian aviation online forum Forumavia, where video footage was posted of him escaping the Sukhoi Superjet-100 holding his backpack. It is unclear, however, if his backpack was in the overhead lockers or by his feet.
Russian media reports only three passengers behind Mr Khlebushkin managed to flee the plane.
Speaking to reporters after escaping, Mr Khlebushkin praised the cabin crew members for helping him out safely.
"It was dark, the temperature was high, they were pulling people out of there," he told reporters. "They helped people to go down the slide.
"My blood pressure is 200/120 and I have arrhythmia. I cannot stop. I want to live."
He was ushered to an ambulance outside the airport.
However, aviation experts say it is "extremely likely" the death toll from Sunday's crash would have been lower had the plane been evacuated more quickly.
The footage of the emergency evacuation posted on the forum, shows some passengers threw their bags down the slide as others were stuck at the rear of the burning plane.
"The first passengers tried to throw out their bags from the cabin and then to slide down. This is why there are delays," commented one member of the forum.
Aviation writer and author of Airline Ratings, Geoffrey Thomas, hit out after seeing the images.
"What is really concerning here is if you look at the vision, you can see them carrying their bags … and there's passengers inside taking videos," Mr Thomas said.
"Clearly, this is another situation where passengers getting their bags off, instead of just getting off the aeroplane, has tragically caused … people to lose their lives."
Despite the furore, one cabin crew member has emerged a hero.
Tatyana Kasatkina, 34, kicked open the door to the Aeroflot jet, grabbed passengers "by the collar" and pushed them out of the aircraft to safety.
"When the plane stopped, the evacuation immediately began," she told The Sun. "Everyone was shouting that we were on fire. But there was no fire inside the cabin at this moment."
"I kicked the door out with my leg and pushed out the passengers so as not to slow the evacuation," Ms Kasatkina added. "Just to hurry them up, I grabbed each of them by the collar from the back."
It comes as the plane's pilot and surviving passengers have revealed the aircraft was struck by lightning moments before the crash.
Pilot Denis Yevdokimov told Russian media the aircraft lost communication and needed to switch to emergency control mode "because of lightning" on the Aeroflot flight to the Arctic city of Murmansk.
He did not specify if the plane was struck directly.
"We managed to restore communication through the emergency frequency on our radio connection. But the link was only for a short time and kept cutting out … it was possible to say only a few words," he told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
Videos on social media show the plane crash-landing and then speeding along the runway with flames pouring from its fuselage.
People can be seen leaping onto an inflatable slide at the front and running from the blazing plane as columns of black smoke billow into the sky.
Another video shot inside the cabin shows roaring flames outside the window and passengers crying out in panic.
Mr Yevdokimov said he believed the plane burst into flames on landing, most likely because of full fuel tanks.
Of the 73 people on board, 41 died and nine people were taken to hospital, three of them seriously injured, authorities said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the victims' loved ones and said the investigation into the disaster "should be as thorough as possible".
- with Will Stewart and wires