3 Aug 2023 21:56

Five Ukrainian emergency service officials treated as suspects in Jan 2023 helicopter crash that killed interior minister - Prosecutor General's Office

MOSCOW. Aug 3 (Interfax) - Five officials from the Ukrainian State Emergency Service have been notified of being treated as suspects in the crash of a helicopter in Brovary in the Kiev region, in which top Interior Ministry officials were killed among others, Ukrainian media reported with reference to the Prosecutor General's Office.

"With procedural guidance by the Prosecutor General's Office, five Ukrainian State Emergency Service officials have been notified of being treated as suspects. Officials from the State Emergency Service's aviation directorate and the special air detachment of the civil defense rescue service have been charged with breaching flight safety rules (air traffic safety) that led to loss of life and major material damage (Ukrainian Criminal Code Article 276 Part 3)," the office said in a statement on its social account on Thursday.

The head of this air detachment's flight safety service has been notified of being suspected of neglect of duty resulting in grave consequences (Ukrainian Criminal Code Article 367, Part 2).

"According to the investigation's findings, the officials committed glaring breaches of air traffic safety rules, which led to loss of life. A preliminary inquiry has reconstructed the events leading up to the crash minute by minute, including data retrieval from the flight recorders," it said.

The Interior Ministry leadership planned to visit the Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk regions in January 2023, it said.

"Contrary to internal guidelines and law provisions, State Emergency Service officials employed a helicopter that was on duty to respond to potential emergencies in Kiev and the Kiev region for transporting the delegation. The helicopter had no clearance to perform other types of flights," the Prosecutor General's Office said.

Moreover, while the crew was preparing for the flight, the captain was not informed of meteorological data along the entire planned route, including extremely adverse weather conditions over the city of Brovary, it said.

"The crew had no clearance to fly in complicated weather conditions and no certificates. However, none of the officials responsible for flight safety cancelled the flight or postponed it until weather conditions were favorable," it said.

"Due to complicated weather conditions, the helicopter crew had to fly at an extremely low altitude, even lower than the height of the buildings along the route. The captain saw an obstacle and began an evasive maneuver, but climbed too steeply. He lost orientation in space and, in completing the maneuver, collided with the terrain due to a lack of the necessary skills," it said.

The crashed helicopter damaged a kindergarten, a number of neighboring buildings, and several cars parked nearby, it said.

Apart from high-ranking Interior Ministry officials, the crash also killed four women and a child visiting the kindergarten. Another 31 people, including 13 children, suffered injuries of varying degrees.

"The suspects include the chief of the State Emergency Service's aviation and air search and rescue directorate, the acting unit commander, the deputy commander for flight training, an air squadron commander, and the head of the flight safety service of the special air detachment of the State Emergency Service's civil defense rescue service from Nezhin of the Chernigov region," it said.

A decision on a pretrial restrictive measure for the suspects is pending.

The pretrial investigation is being handled by the State Bureau of Investigations and the Security Service of Ukraine.