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How the airline, the airport, and the authorities refrained from naming the number of fatalities in Moscow’s airplane fire: A timeline

Source: Meduza
Tatiana Makeyeva / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA
May 5, 6:30 PM

A Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplane owned by the Russian airline Aeroflot makes an emergency landing immediately after taking off at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. The plane catches fire.

7:44 PM (one hour later)

Russia’s Investigative Committee announces that a criminal case has been opened “with regards to the emergency landing of a passenger plane.” The case was opened in accordance with a statue that applies when two or more people are killed. “At the moment, investigators are releasing information about one fatality and four people who have requested medical aid,” a press release from the Investigative Committee indicates. That clarification appears in the newsreels of Russian wire services after 8:00.

7:49 PM

An announcement appears on Aeroflot’s website. It says that the airline “can confirm news of a fire onboard flight SU1492 from Moscow to Murmansk.” The company also writes that “there are victims; the number is currently being determined.”

8:50 PM (two hours later)

Sheremetyevo posts its first message about an “aviation event.” “Information about the condition of the passengers and crewmembers is currently being determined and will be made available later,” the publication announces.

9:34 PM (three hours later)

The Investigative Committee publishes a message announcing that “13 people are dead, including two children.” The press release is later edited; a copy updated at 9:58 can be found here.

10:09 PM (four hours later)

Aeroflot publishes flight schedule changes in connection with the catastrophe at Sheremetyevo.

11:13 PM (five hours later)

Sheremetyevo announces that emergency rescue operations and aid operations for surviving passengers are complete without stating the number of those affected. “Information about the condition of the other passengers and crewmembers is currently being determined and will be made available later,” the airport states, repeating its earlier message.

11:28 PM

“The crew of the Aeroflot aircraft that left Moscow today for Murmansk and was forced to return to Sheremetyevo Airport for technical reasons did everything it could to save the flight’s passengers. The evacuation was completed in 55 seconds; the industry norm is 90 seconds. The captain of the aircraft was the last to leave the burning vehicle,” Aeroflot announces.

11:30 PM

The Investigative Committee announces that “37 people survived out of the 78 who were onboard” the burning airplane (this information is also added retroactively to the 9:34 announcement). At Sheremetyevo, Yelena Markovskaya, a representative of the Moscow interregional branch of the Committee, gives journalists the same information in the exact same words. She named the number of those killed (41 people) only after a journalist asks for clarification.

Russia’s Investigative Committee announces the number of survivors in the Sukhoi Superjet 100 burning.
RT in Russian
May 6, 12:34 AM (six hours later)

Aeroflot publishes a list of survivors, which names 33 passengers (four crewmembers also survived). Sheremetyevo Airport publishes the same list two hours later — eight hours after the plane began to burn.

3:18 AM (nine hours later)

“Aeroflot expresses its condolences to the friends and loved ones of those killed and injured in the catastrophe of flight SU1492 from Moscow to Murmansk. The crew of the aircraft did everything it could to save the passengers and provide first aid to those injured. Unfortunately, it was unable to save every passenger,” Aeroflot announces in a message on its website’s homepage. At the time of this writing, the number of those killed is still not listed on the company’s site.

3:47 AM

“With great sorrow, Sheremetyevo International Airport and Aeroflot Airlines can confirm the passenger deaths caused by a fire on flight SU1492,” reads the airport’s final published message about the catastrophe. The number of those killed is absent from this message as well.

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Translation by Hilah Kohen