MOSCOW, June 21 (Itar-Tass) —— The Federal Forestry Agency’s commission that investigated the death of paratroopers sent to fight a big fire in Tuva said the accident was caused by a concurrence of circumstances and said their instructor was not to be blamed.
“A concurrence of meteorological circumstances and the last-minute decision made by the instructor led to their death,” an adviser to the agency’s head, Nikolai Kovalev, said.
At the same time, he believes that the instructor is not to be blamed.
Kovalev said the paratroopers were in the lowest place to lay a fire line during a thunderstorm and an abrupt change of wind that had suddenly picked up and reached 30 metres per second. “The group split. Four went left along the slope and reached the edge of the fire. There was simply not enough oxygen for them to survive. Another eight came to the dampest place, also void of oxygen, and suffocated, then died,” Kovalev said.
Both groups were some 40 metres apart and could not get their bearing in the smoke-filled area.
The Federal Forestry Agency will nominate the paratroopers, both those who died and those who survived, for state awards. “Those who died will be awarded Orders of Courage, and the survivors will get orders and medals for meritorious service, and other awards,” the official said.
The Tyva authorities, the Federal Forestry Agency and the Emergencies Ministry will also provide financial support to the families of those perished.
A group of 14 paratroopers was fighting a fire in a mountainous part of Tyva on May 6, when the fire had abruptly developed into crown fire, killing eight. Six survived.