KYIV (Reuters) – A helicopter that crashed in a suburb of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, killing 14 people, including the interior minister, had been flying at a low level in atrocious weather, prosecutors said on Thursday.
The helicopter crashed in fog near a nursery on Jan. 18 in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called a “terrible tragedy” before calling for an investigation.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, 42, a prominent member of Zelenskiy’s team in fighting Russia’s invasion, and his first deputy were among the dead.
The helicopter had been flying to a location near the frontline. The Prosecutor General’s office accused five emergency services officials of violating flight safety rules.
“According to the investigation, the officials committed flagrant violations of the rules of traffic safety and operating air transport, which caused the death of people,” the statement said.
They were also investigating the head of the department for flight safety at the emergency services for negligence.
The prosecutors did not name the emergency services officials.
The prosecutors said that officials had used the helicopter that was on duty to respond to potential emergencies in Kyiv and nearby and that it had no permits for other types of flights.
The crew commander was not informed of the weather along the flight route, and in particular over Brovary, an eastern suburb of Kyiv where the aircraft crashed. The crew also had no appropriate permits to fly in difficult weather, the prosecutors said.
Due to the difficult weather conditions, the helicopter crew was forced to fly at an extremely low altitude, even lower than the height of the buildings along the route, the prosecutors said.
The crew commander saw an obstacle and began to perform a circling manoeuvre, but he abruptly climbed, lost his orientation and crashed due to lack of necessary skills, they said.
The day of the crash was reconstructed minute by minute during the pre-trial investigation, including the decoding of the black boxes, they added.
(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka and Kyiv newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie)