Fans’ plane hit weather station before airport crash

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A PLANE that crashed at a Ukrainian airport, killing five people, hit its weather station while landing in thick fog, officials said yesterday.

The Soviet-built An-24 twin-engined plane carrying football fans crashed while trying to land at Donetsk airport on Wednesday. Of the 44 passengers and eight crew on board, five were killed and nine injured.

Prosecutor Volodymyr Vyshinsky said the plane, which had come from the Black Sea port of Odessa, grazed the weather station with its left wing as it approached the landing strip, then hit the ground with its right wing and broke into two pieces.

Investigators are considering pilot error, faulty ground support equipment and poor weather conditions as possible causes.

Witnesses said the plane quickly caught fire. Passengers were able to escape from the burning aircraft through a hole in the fuselage left by the crash.

Pilot Serhiy Meloshenko blamed bad weather for the accident. “There was heavy fog,” he said from hospital. “The landing strip was poorly visible, or to be more precise, it was not visible at all.”

Yuri Molod, head of South Airlines, which operated the flight, said the plane was in good condition and blamed the pilot for the crash-landing. He said the pilot should not have landed in the fog and should have instead diverted to another airport.