A Russian pilot has been sentenced to six years in prison after a plane he was flying made a rough crash-landing at a Moscow airport in 2019, killing 41 passengers, the general prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
Denis Evdokimov was operating an Aeroflot passenger flight from Moscow to the northern city of Murmansk on May 5, 2019 when lightning struck the plane. He returned to the capital’s Sheremetyevo airport for an emergency landing.
Television footage showed the Sukhoi Superjet 100 bouncing along the tarmac before the rear part of the aircraft burst into flames. Forty-one out of 78 people aboard died, including two children. The surviving passengers escaped using the aircraft’s emergency slides.
“After the decision was made to return to the airport of departure, [Evdokimov] made, without observing the procedure for operating the aircraft, a very rough landing, allowing the aircraft to ‘bounce’,” the prosecutor’s office said.
“As a result, the main landing gear collapsed and the aircraft structure was destroyed with a spill and ignition of the fuel,” the office said.
Evdokimov was charged in 2019 with violating traffic safety rules resulting in the negligent death of two or more people. In addition to his prison sentence, Evdokimov is banned from operating aircraft for three years. He pleaded not guilty, Interfax reported. It was not immediately clear if he intended to appeal.
The aircraft was owned by VEB-Leasing Joint-Stock Company, the prosecutor’s office said.
Experts have warned of safety risks as Russian airlines, including state-controlled Aeroflot, are stripping jetliners to secure parts they can no longer buy due to Western sanctions.
Russian aviation safety has improved in recent years but accidents, especially involving ageing planes in far-flung regions, are not uncommon.
According to Russian newspaper Novye Izvestia, there were more than 130 accidents involving civil and military aircraft in Russia in 2022, including 28 planes that crashed, excluding those related to the war in Ukraine.
Here’s more information about the incident: