Flight Attendant Tatyana Kasatkina has told of the horrific moment she was forced to throw passengers out of the burning Aeroflot jet in Russia after it crashed and exploded.
Kasatkina, 34, grabbed people by their collars and pushed them out onto the tarmac in a bid to speed up the evacuation process.
She revealed that many passengers trying to escape the flames were slowed down by others stopping to grab their luggage.
The plane took off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport at 18:02 local time, heading to the Arctic Circle city of Murmansk.
Its crew sent a distress signal when ‘malfunctions occurred’ in bad weather after take-off.
The aircraft then attempted two emergency landings. On the first approach the plane was travelling too fast and on the second the automatic systems failed, Russian news agency Interfax said.
The jet hit the tarmac three times and smashed its rear undercarriage, debris then got into an engine and it set ablaze initial reports have said.
The aircraft had landed with full fuel tanks because the crew had lost contact with air traffic controllers and decided it was too dangerous to dump fuel over Moscow the agency said.
41 of the 78 people onboard the Sukhoi Superjet-100 were killed in the accident, including two children and a member of the airline’s crew.
Denis Evdokimov, the captain of the flight, and Miss Kasatkina both claimed the accident was caused by lightening hitting the plane. However, other reports suggest that the plane had an electrical fault.
Miss Kasatkina described hearing shouts of a fire and kicking open the emergency exit with her foot.
She said “It was all so quick. The smoke was already black. The last people were crawling to get out. Everyone had jumped from their seats and moved forwards, although the plane was still moving at a good speed. I saw the first woman calling somebody on her phone and saying: “We are on fire, we are falling down”.
Miss Kasatkina recalled seeing an ‘electric flash’ before being informed that the flight would be making an emergency landing at Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Mr Evdokimov said the fire began after landing and that the plane was not on fire while in the air.
Passengers who survived the crash have credited the cabin crew for saving their lives, with one stating that he ‘nearly fainted from fear’.
Survivor Dmitry Khlebnikov said, “I thank God and the stewardesses who saved me. They were always with us, helping people to climb the slide and get out of the cabin full of smoke… It was dark and incredibly hot inside”.
A spokeswoman for the crash investigation team, Svetlana Petrenko, confirmed the deaths of two children on-board.
It is thought that 11 people are injured.
A flight attendant named Maxim Moiseev, 22, died trying to save passengers towards the tail of the plane.
He remained on-board trying to help people escape the inferno and was killed in the blaze.
Authorities in Murmansk have declared three days of mourning over the loss of life.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Russian Vladimir Putin had offered his condolences to the victims’ loved ones.
Russia’s Investigative Committee says the flight recorders from the plane have now been recovered.
Investigators are looking into inexperienced pilots, equipment failure and bad weather as possible causes for the disaster.
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