Avenger of Lake Constance mid-air collision becomes father again 16 years later
“Life has turned out so that I have children once more. And I have meaning in my life again,” Kaloev told Moskovsky Komsomolets paper. “Doctors say that everything is fine with the babies… They were born healthy, everything is fine.”
Kaloev added that there were no complications during labor and that his wife Irina Dzarasova, whom he married in 2013, was feeling fine after the birth. The twins, a girl and a boy, haven’t been given names yet, but “there’s enough time to do it,” the 62-year-old said.
Vitaly was devastated after the tragedy over Lake Constance in southern Germany 16 years ago and “this second marriage became a consolation for him, though he is still grieving his loss,” a family friend said.
The birth of the twins is a big thing for Vitaly and Irina, who is 22 years younger than her husband. But after what the man went through, they try to avoid excessive media attention now, he added.
Kaloev’s life is a tragic and highly controversial tale of loss, grief and ultimately, vengeance, with many in Russia hailing him as a hero while others see him as a murderer like any other. His previous wife and two young kids, aged 4 and 11, were killed as two planes collided near the town of Uberlingen, near the Swiss border, on July 1, 2002, along with 68 other people, many of whom were children heading off on vacation.
The grief-stricken Kaloev joined the search parties shortly after the air disaster to look for his wife Svetlana and his children Konstantin, 10, and Diana, 4. He found a broken pearl necklace belonging to his beloved daughter, whose body remained relatively intact after a tree broke her 36,000-foot fall. His wife and son were found elsewhere.
Upon his return home, Kaloev's brother Yuri reported that Vitaly suffered a nervous breakdown as he grieved for his family. For the first year after their deaths, while he sought answers from authorities, Kaloev lingered at their gravesides and built a memorial to them in their family home.
He eventually hired a private investigator in Russia to track down the man he, and many others, held responsible for the tragedy; air traffic controller Peter Nielsen.
Nielsen was the sole air traffic controller in charge at the time of the tragedy, operating two workstations simultaneously, giving the Russian passenger jet just 44 seconds to avert disaster – far from enough time – after which it collided with a cargo plane.
At the time, Kaloev rejected an offer of £130,000 ($164,000) compensation and received no reply when he requested a face-to-face meeting with the air traffic controller, so he took matters into his own hands, quite literally. Nielsen was widely blamed for the air disaster but was due to be cleared of any wrongdoing when Kaloev traveled to Switzerland to confront him for the deaths of his loved ones.Also on rt.com History’s most infamous airplane collisions
In 2004, Kaloev eventually tracked down the then 36-year-old Nielsen at his home in the Swiss town of Kloten. He carried an envelope full of extremely graphic pictures of his dead family, victimized by the air traffic controller’s lack of care – bruised, disfigured, sewn together and laid out in their coffins which Nielsen reportedly slapped out of his hand.
“My last thought was that he threw my dead children out of their caskets,” Kaloev said, recalling the moment he drove a 5.5-inch knife into Nielsen's stomach. Nielsen would later die in his pregnant wife’s arms, surrounded by their two young children.
Kaloev has never expressed regret for his actions, stating: “Killing him didn't make me feel any better.”
“Life is more complicated than the law. I only speak for myself – I had exhausted all legal ways to find justice.”
Kaloev was convicted of murder and sentenced to eight years in prison, which was ultimately reduced to five for good behavior. He was released on 8 November 2007 whereupon he received a hero’s welcome back home in Vladikavkaz, in North Ossetia.Also on rt.com ‘I am at odds with God’: Avenger for kids & wife never regretted murder
In 2016 he was awarded the highest regional medal by the local Ossetian government, the medal "To the Glory of Ossetia."
Kaloev and the tragic tale of his family is the subject of a 2017 Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘Aftermath.’ A 2018 Russian film, Unforgiven, directed by Sarik Andreasyan and starring Dmitry Nagiyev also deals with the woeful story.
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