Amid the shocking sight of an ablaze plane wreckage, Evgeniy Zambitsky was one of only few people who reached the TU-204 jet within minutes of Saturday’s crash. He’s spoken to RT about what he saw as he bravely searched the area for survivors.
In the first thirty minutes after the plane crashed, only eyewitnesses were there to help the victims of the tragedy. As parts of the jet had hit the road, ambulance and rescue teams had to break through terrible traffic jams. With no help in sight, a small group of men went into the burning plane and tried to save an injured flight attendant.
RT: In the midst of this tragedy you were trying to help one of the injured. Tell us what were you trying to do?
Evgeniy Zambitsky: Well, we found her [the flight attendant], she was in the back of the plane, in the main, in the fuselage part of it. And so we took her – there were four of us. It was slippery and we tried to take her to the road, to the highway. Her legs were broken, and there was blood all over her face, there was blood dripping from her mouth and her eyes- our eyes were itching because of the jet fuel. She was in bad condition but she was conscious, so she spoke to us.
RT: And how shocked were you by what was going on?
EZ: All of us, all of the eyewitnesses [had] a rush of adrenaline, our hands were shaky, we were in a state of shock like anyone would be.
RT: We can see the shocking pictures that you managed to take of this girl. How badly hurt was she, do you think, did she say anything at all?
EZ: Yes, she talked to us, she said that her eyes hurt, she told us to put her down, she said my legs hurt. But both of her legs were broken, and I think she could not feel her legs and her words were not articulated.
RT: And what were you trying to do, where were you trying to take her?
EZ: We tried to take her onto the highway, we thought that there were some ambulances on the sides. We wanted to hand her over to the paramedics, but there were none of them, no ambulance crews. That’s why we were holding her in our arms. There was a police car there, but we couldn’t fit her inside.
TU-204 crash eyewitness Evgeniy Zambitsky shared his dramatic experience with RT.
RT: And we see these pictures of other people around at the time. Do you know who those people were, were they passersby or airport staff?
EZ: From what we can see these were eyewitnesses, there were four or five people. But the rest were afraid to come up to us because the engine was still on fire, and fire rescue teams could not put out the fire for 25 minutes, so only four or five people were brave enough to approach the plane. Of course, there was a high risk of explosion, we were afraid of that, but we stayed there.
RT: You talk about the plane, and there was high risk of explosion. Did you try to go into the plane and try and find other survivors yourself?
EZ: Yes, I went down from the highway to the field where the plane was as there was no one else around, and I met the first flight attendant. She was on her feet and she asked me to find her friend, the other flight attendant. And I saw that the engine was on fire and there was a risk of explosion, we were waiting for it to explode, that’s why it was quite horrifying. Despite that I climbed up the plane and I saw that blood was on the seat, and that’s why I decided there was a person somewhere around. The first flight attendant Christina asked me to find the second flight attendant, and that was the girl that we found.
RT: And were you not fearful for your own safety?
EZ: Well, of course I was… But I was alone and nobody dared to approach me. And I had to, well, throw caution to the wind. Of course that was horrifying, but I did that.
RT: And did you see many other injured people around as well?
EZ: Yes, the first thing I saw was the woman, the flight attendant, there was blood all over her face, and her face was mangled. That was the first flight attendant Christina. Then, the second flight attendant, then we found a third man, he had problems with his back. We put him on the road, and put the blankets over him. The fourth man we found was unfortunately dead. Then we saw two pilots all covered in blood, but we couldn’t get to them, we only saw two pools of blood. We only found four people, the rest were found by the rescue crew, who had to use special equipment to get inside the cockpit.
RT: Very tragically, we do believe that this girl that you were trying to help has died. You mentioned the emergency services were there. How quickly did they arrive and what were they able to do as far as you can tell?
EZ: Rescue crews, well, it took them about three to five minutes, and when the fire rescue teams arrived they started to put out the fire. They focused on the fire, on the engine, but they did not have any special equipment to break into the cockpit. But there were no ambulances for about 25 minutes, because of the traffic jam they couldn’t get through, and there was no helicopter. There were only fire rescue teams.
RT: And how have you been feeling since you saw all that, which was obviously a very shocking scene?
EZ: Well, first I was shocked, of course, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then I got back to my senses and realized I had to do something. Someone backed down, they tried to get back, they were afraid. But I ran to the site of the crash. I don’t know why.