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Investigators file charges against pilot whose plane caught fire while landing in Moscow

The pilot’s lawyer Natalya Mitusova said Yevdokimov was charged with misapplication of controls

MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed on Wednesday it had filed charges against Denis Yevdokimov, the pilot-in-command of the SSJ-100 plane that caught fire during landing in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on May 5.

"As a result of investigation into the accident involving a passenger plane in the Sheremetyevo airport, the Office for the investigation of particularly important cases of the Russian Investigative Committee filed charges against the pilot-in-command of the RRJ-95B aircraft, Denis Yevdokimov. He is charged with the crime envisaged by Article 263, part 3 of the Russian Criminal Code (Violation of rules for traffic safety and operation of air transport, which entailed by negligence the infliction of grave injury and death to two or more persons)," a spokesperson for the Committee told TASS.

The charges against Yevdokimov are punishable with a prison term of up to seven years.

According to investigators, the pilot of the plane performing flights from Moscow to Murmansk, committed a grave error while landing in Sheremetyevo.

"Yevdokimov’s further efforts to control the aircraft, committed in breach of the existing rules, led to the destruction of the plane and fire aboard it. As a result, 40 passengers and one crew member died. Besides, 10 people received injuries of varying degrees," the spokesperson said.

The preliminary report issued by the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) on June 14 says that the jet was struck by lightning a few minutes after the takeoff, which resulted in automatic control failure and communication issues. The crew did not deem the situation extraordinary and decided to return to Sheremetyevo, in spite of the alarm going off, warning them to turn around. The jet hit the runway a few times while landing, the landing gear legs broke and the fire broke out.

In total, the ill-fated plane had 78 people (including three minors and five crew members) on board.

The pilot’s lawyer Natalya Mitusova said Yevdokimov was charged with misapplication of controls.

"Our defendant is charged with errors committed during the landing, namely misapplication of controls. The defense team informed the investigation that the plane’s systems gave an incorrect response the first pilot’s commands," she said.

"According to the indictment, the lightning indeed struck the plane, the plane was in the manual control mode and was in an emergency situation," the lawyer added. "It’s hard to say anything for sure at the moment, without a detailed study of expert reviews."

Earlier, the Interstate Aviation Committee, the air investigation body for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, said in its report that during the troubled landing, the crew started erratically switching the sidestick controller into various positions.

A source familiar with the case earlier told TASS that Yevdokimov pleaded not guilty.