A heroic stewardess helped save 33 passengers by grabbing them by the collar and throwing them to safety from the Russian jet which crash-landed in a ball of flames.
Terrifying footage from inside the Aeroflot jet shows passengers screaming in terror as the flames intensify around them – melting the plane’s windows.
The quick-thinking of Tatyana Kasatkina and her crew, including one who died after refusing to leave while people were still on board, was praised yesterday as the death toll in the inferno was confirmed as 41.
But survivors – mainly from business class at the front of the plane – were criticised for stopping to open overhead lockers and collect their bags and coats as those behind row ten were being choked to death by toxic fumes.
The Sukhoi Superjet burst into flames as it bounced along the runway during an emergency landing shortly after take-off from Moscow. The plane’s electrics had been knocked out after a suspected lightning strike.
Describing how she had just seconds to act, flight attendant Miss Kasatkina said: ‘It was all so quick. The fire was visible. I saw it at the back – all were shouting “we are 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. Just to hurry them up I grabbed each of them by the collar from the back.
‘The smoke was already black. The last people were crawling to get out.’ The 34-year-old described seeing a woman calling her loved ones, saying: ‘We are on fire, we are falling down.’
With the back of the aircraft the first to be engulfed by the flames, the rear exits were quickly blocked. Yet Miss Kasatkina’s brave colleague Maxim Moiseev, 22, still attempted to get to the doors. When he was beaten back by the flames, he tried to help those trapped at the rear of the plane reach the front, but died in the fire.
But witnesses claim passengers towards the rear of the cabin died because passengers further forward blocked the aisle by stopping to grab their hand luggage before exiting.
Some were seen throwing bags and coats down an escape chute before sliding down themselves.
One overweight survivor, Dmitry Khlebushkin, caused fury as he left with a backpack he had rescued from the burning plane. According to reports, only three passengers sat behind him in row ten survived.
The anger was compounded when he later demanded a refund from Aeroflot – then complained he didn’t get one after 40 minutes of trying.
Watch the video here:
The jet caught fire at 6.30pm on Sunday at Sheremetyevo airport.
The Murmansk-bound flight had turned back ten minutes after take-off in a heavy hailstorm. Pilot Denis Evdokimov said ‘because of lightning, we had a loss of radio communication’ but he and his co-pilot had landed the plane ‘by the book’ and the fire started only after landing.
Accident investigators are looking at three possibilities behind the crash – including poorly-qualified pilots, equipment failure and bad weather.
Despite calls for all Sukhoi Superjet 100s to be grounded, Russian transport minister Yevgeny Dietrich insisted the planes were safe.
The Superjet, which entered service in 2011, has been hit by a number of concerns over safety and reliability, and was grounded in December 2016 over a tail defect.
The 41 bodies recovered from the wreckage include that of a US citizen named as Jeremy Brooks. Six survivors were still in hospital last night.