A military Antonov An-26 carrying air force cadets crashed in Ukraine’s north-east on Friday evening, killing 26 of the 27 people on board.
The aircraft reportedly crashed near a highway, around two kilometres from the Chuguev military airbase, while attempting to land during a training exercise. The plane burst into flames shortly after the crash.
Onboard were 20 air force cadets and seven trained officers from the local Kharkiv National Air Force University.
Miraculously, one individual, 20-year old cadet Vyacheslav Zolochevsky, survived the crash.
Ukraine’s SBU security service confirmed that while the plane was performing a training flight when it crashed, none of the cadets were involved in piloting the aircraft, and official instructors were in command of the plane.
While the exact cause of the crash is still yet to be determined, preliminary reports suggest one of the pilots reported a failure in the left engine upon descent to land.
Ukraine Defence Minister Andriy Taran said that “the plane likely caught the ground with its wing” and then burst into flames.
He noted preliminary reports that say one of the sensors in the left engine had failed, however, reiterated that the final conclusion on the cause of the crash would be made following official examination of the plane’s black box recorders.
Minister Taran also noted the age of the aircraft, made in 1977, and said the plane was scheduled to be operated for three more years before undergoing any extensive repairs or upgrades.
The plane’s flight recorders have now been recovered, however, at the time of writing, no information on what they contain has been released to the public by Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities have said they are currently investigating four possible causes of the crash: a technical malfunction involving the aircraft; improper performance by the crew; improper performance by flight control; and inadequate maintenance.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky promised a prompt and “objective” investigation into the incident, labelling it a “terrible tragedy”.
“Ukraine lost 26 of its worthy sons,” he said.
“It is difficult to find words to express the pain of this loss,” he added, while announcing Saturday as a national day of mourning for the country.
More to come.