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11 Apr, 2010 01:24

“Nobody could believe it” say Polish journalists at crash site

Polish journalists arrived in Smolensk an hour before the air catastrophe and were among the first to get to the site of the crash. They would have flown on the president’s plane had the delegation not been so large.

Victor Bator was one of the first to arrive at the deadly scene, says what he saw at the site of the crash was devastating.

“We learned about the catastrophe when we were at the cemetery in Katyn, waiting for the president and the delegation. I received a call three minutes after the accident happened. Nobody could believe it. There was a kind of pause as we waited for information. Polish officials did not make any contact with journalists. We headed straight to the Smolensk airport. We arrived here 20 minutes after the crash when the site was not yet sealed off. What we saw was really devastating,” the Polish journalist says.

“Plane fragments were scattered across several hundred meters. We could also see the bodies of those who'd died. It was clear at once that the recovery and identification process would be very difficult. 40 bodies have already been transported by helicopters to Moscow's Domodedovo airport, where identification will take place and where the family members of those who died are arriving. Polish prime minister Tusk has arrived at the Smolensk airport where he was met by Prime Minister Putin. The words of condolences and support Russia has given are very important to the Polish people.”

Barbara Vlodarchik says at first nobody could believe it really happened.

“When we heard about the accident nobody could believe it, but then were received confirmation. Our hotel was close to the airport. By chance, our film editor was there so he filmed everything with his personal camera even before the arrival of the Emergency Ministry people,” she said. “It’s hard to find words to describe our sorrow, to explain what it means to us.”

Marcin Wojciechowski adds that the presidential pool journalists should have been aboard the plane, too.

“We arrived an hour earlier and headed straight to a hotel to wait for the president and his delegation. If there hadn’t been so many people in the delegation we would have been flying with the president,” he said.

“We learned about the presidential plane having problems. We arrived at the airport and learned that the TU-154 could not land because of the heavy fog. The plane was advised to land in Minsk and all the delegation would go by vehicles to Katyn, but the pilot decided that they would land here, at Smolensk military airport. The plane just crashed,” he added.

“When the rescue teams arrived at the crash site, they realized straight away that there was no point in calling ambulances because all the delegation members had died.”