A heroic flight attendant pushed passengers out of the burning plane after the crash in Russia while escape routes were reportedly blocked by people grabbing luggage from overhead lockers.
Screams of terror could be heard from the inside the cabin of the burning jet after it smashed into the ground on Sunday evening in Moscow leaving at least 41 dead.
Harrowing footage shows flames licking at the plane’s windows as it was engulfed in a huge fireball. Other footage appears to show the rear of the jet consumed by flames even before the crash landing at Sheremetyevo airport just 28 minutes after takeoff.
Flight attendant Tatyana Kasatkina, 34, told The Sun how she kicked the plane’s door open and physically pushed passengers out onto the emergency slide to safety. “When the plane stopped, the evacuation immediately began,” she said. “Everyone was shouting that we were on fire. But there was no fire inside the cabin at this moment …
“I kicked the door out with my leg and pushed out the passengers so as not to slow the evacuation.
“Just to hurry them up I grabbed each of them by the collar from the back …”
The emotional crew member said: “It was all so quick. The smoke was already black. The last people were crawling to get out …
“Everyone had jumped from their seats and moved forwards, although the plane was still moving at a good speed.
“I saw the first woman calling somebody on her phone and saying, ‘we are on fire, we are falling down.’”
Witnesses claim those at the back of the cabin were stranded in their seats because passengers further forward grabbed their hand luggage before exiting.
Footage showing survivors emerging carrying bags and coats suggests passengers “cost lives” because those stranded at the rear of the plane could not get out, said unnamed experts cited by Vesti.ru.
The rear emergency doors were not accessible because of the blaze.
Survivors have now praised the heroic cabin crew who rescued them from the flaming wreckage.
Dmitry Khlebnikov said: “I thank God — and the stewardesses who saved me.
“They were always with us, helping people to climb the slide and get out of the cabin full of smoke … It was dark and incredibly hot inside.”
Another witness said it was a “miracle” that anyone had survived, as chilling pictures of the aftermath showed the blackened burnt-out wreck.
Earlier the death toll was estimated at 13 including two children, but investigators confirmed late on Sunday that dozens had died in the inferno.
Investigators are understood to be examining all possible causes of the tragedy including the theory that the plane was hit by lightning.
“There were 78 people on board, including (five) crew members,” the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement. “According to updated information, 37 out of them survived.”
Flight attendant Maxim Moiseev was said to have been killed while saving his passengers from the blaze, REN TV reported.
One passenger revealed: “I was sitting in front of the engine, and saw how everything melted.
“Somehow I managed to reach the exit, inhaling carbon monoxide.
“The flight attendants said: Come on, quickly, crawl, a little bit left until the exit. As a result, I managed to jump off the plane.”
Passenger Pyotr Egorov described the plane jumping like a “grasshopper” as it touched down.
“We took off and then lightning struck the plane,” he said.
“The plane turned back and there was a hard landing. We were so scared we almost lost consciousness.
“The plane jumped down the landing strip like a grasshopper and then caught fire on the ground.”
The two-year-old Sukhoi Superjet was forced to make the landing shortly after taking off for the Arctic city of Murmansk at 6.03pm local time. A distress signal was issued before the radio connection failed just minutes into the flight.
Witnesses filmed the rear of the plane engulfed in flames and black smoke as it touched down at the airport and sped along the runway ablaze.
Aeroflot said the plane turned back for unspecified technical reasons and made a hard landing that started the fire. One source said the emergency landing was so hard that debris had found its way into the engines, sparking a fire that swiftly engulfed the rear of the fuselage.
Claims that passengers grabbing their bags from overhead compartments delayed the evacuation have not been confirmed.
A spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee announced that an investigation into the fire would begin soon.
The plane’s chief pilot has been named as Denis Evdokimov and the co-pilot Maxim Kuznetsov.
Tatiana Kasatkina and Ksenia Vogel were also among the crew members.
Evdokimov said: “We lost radio communication because of a lightning strike. We did not have radio communications during landing.
“We managed to resume it via an emergency frequency but it was abrupt and short. We managed to say a few words and lost it. And we had to connect it again.
“Air traffic control did help us, they guided us to the runway. The speed was not high, but normal for landing.
“Everything was according to the book. We gently approached the ground, slowing down.
“After a complete stop we ordered emergency evacuation. The second pilot was the first to leave the cockpit, then I did.
“At first I did not glance outside. When I did, I saw a fire engine.
“The fire began after landing. We were not on fire when in the air.”
Russian news agencies reported that the plane had been produced in 2017 and had been serviced as recently as April of this year.
The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia’s troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.
The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft, but also is used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico.
This is the second fatal accident involving the plane.
In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 aboard.
The article originally appeared on The Sun and is published here with permission.