Ukraine mourns as crash pilots blamed

A NATION in mourning, Ukraine yesterday began burying 83 people killed when a fighter jet sliced into a crowd of air show spectators.

The country’s top prosecutor said pilot error and poor planning were to blame for the military’s latest disaster.

As black ribbons flew from flagpoles nationwide to mourn history’s deadliest air show disaster, Prosecutor General Sviatoslav Piskun said the Su-27 had been flying too low before Saturday’s crash in Lviv, and organisers should not have allowed stunts to be performed directly over spectators.

The Defence Ministry yesterday banned all warplane flights, except for basic duty flights. Ukraine’s air force commander and a top officer have been arrested, the plane’s two pilots are under investigation and the defence minister has submitted his resignation because of the crash.

“As of now, we may surely say that it was military negligence,” Piskun said in the capital Kiev. “Also there were signs of criminal actions by pilots. They used this vehicle incorrectly.”

He said other possible causes were also being investigated, including mechanical failure of the 15-year-old plane or terrorism. He said the two pilots had originally been planning to use another Su-27 for the show but it was replaced at the last minute. The jet had been performing a risky manoeuvre at low altitude when it nicked the ground, sliced off the nose of a plane sitting on the tarmac and roared through a crowd of hundreds of spectators before exploding in a ball of fire.

Eighty-three people were killed, including 23 children, and 116 were injured, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry. The pilots ejected and survived. Regional authorities said 45 funerals took place yesterday and today in and around Lviv, a picturesque but dilapidated city of cobblestone streets, medieval churches and wide boulevards near the Polish border.

Victims' families and survivors sang hymns and recited prayers led by Ukrainian Orthodox clerics at a ceremony at the Sknyliv air base.

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