The trial in the criminal case of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) that burned down at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport has ended. The Khimki city court issued a guilty verdict to the pilot of the airliner Denis Evdokimov. Judge Olga Chikhanova found him guilty under Part 3 of Art. 263 of the Criminal Code (violation of traffic safety rules) and sentenced to six years in prison with a sentence to be served in a colony-settlement.
In addition, according to the verdict, after serving his sentence, Evdokimov was prohibited from engaging in activities related to the operation of air transport for three years.
Together with the verdict, Chikhanova satisfied the civil claims filed by the two injured relatives of the victims. Moral damages in the amount of 2,500,000 rubles were recovered from the aircraft commander in their favor.
It was this kind of punishment that public prosecutor Natalya Kostyuk requested in the debate of the parties. In her opinion, the guilt of the pilot is fully proven.
On May 5, 2019, an Aeroflot SSJ100 operating flight SU1492 from Moscow to Murmansk returned to Sheremetyevo Airport and caught fire: 41 people died as a result of an emergency landing, in total there were 78 people on board at that time along with the crew.
According to the Investigative Committee (IC), Evdokimov, after making a decision to return to the airport of departure, made, without observing the procedure for operating the aircraft, a very rough landing, allowing “goats” and overloads that exceeded the operational limitations of the aircraft. As a result, the main landing gear collapsed and the aircraft structure was destroyed with a spill and ignition of the fuel.
During the investigation of the criminal case, several examinations were carried out: fire-technical, flight, aviation-technical, etc., which, together with other evidence, made it possible to restore the circumstances of the incident, according to the UK. According to the position of the department, the actions of the air traffic control service and the service of search and rescue support for flights of Sheremetyevo Airport in the current situation could not affect the tragedy in any way. Investigators also claim that during the flight the aircraft adequately responded to the pilot’s control actions. “This information refutes the version of the accused about a possible malfunction of the aircraft,” the UK concluded.
Lawyer Natalya Mitusova intends to appeal the verdict. “We will appeal, because six years is a rather harsh sentence, almost the upper limit: the maximum sentence is seven years for this crime,” she said. In her opinion, the verdict is in any case unfair and biased, since other versions that the defense insisted on were not sufficiently verified.
“On a technical malfunction and on a design check of the aircraft,” she said. Mitusova stressed that since other versions of the crash are not ruled out, it is impossible to talk about the actions of only the crew commander.
Earlier, Mitusova, in an interview with Vedomosti, noted that for Evdokimov, the fact that he was a participant in the tragedy in which so many people died is a great punishment.
According to the position of the defense, her client, while flying, found himself in an unusual situation, in which, after the impact of lightning, all aircraft systems failed, and the machine itself switched to direct manual control mode, for some time communication with the ground was lost, and subsequently was unstable throughout the flight.
Evdokimov insisted during the trial that the SSJ100 did not meet airworthiness standards. In particular, according to the pilot, if the landing gear met the standards, then during an emergency landing they would safely break. Moreover, Evdokimov believes that the lightning strike that hit the plane disabled the electrical remote control system, and there is no mechanical connection between the control surfaces on the SSJ100.
Aeroflot did not respond to Vedomosti’s request.
The trial essentially dragged on for almost four years. The composition of the court changed twice due to the promotion and illness of the judges who considered the case. For the third time, the judge of the Khimki court, Chikhanova, managed to bring the process to completion.
The damage caused by the tragedy to the owner of the aircraft – the company “VEB-Leasing”, is estimated in the framework of the criminal case in the amount of more than 1 billion 570 million rubles.
More than 80 people were recognized as victims in the case – these are relatives of those killed in the plane crash. At the end of the trial, only three of them came to the conclusion that Yevdokimov’s guilt had been proven and he deserved severe punishment in accordance with the law. Another 16 victims said that the pilot was not involved in the causes of the tragedy.
At the same time, the court in Paris will consider claims in the interests of more than 30 victims against the equipment manufacturers of the SSJ100 aircraft that burned down at Sheremetyevo. Plaintiffs contend that the accident was due to design flaws and manufacturing defects.
The defendants in the lawsuit are five French, German and American companies. The total amount of claims against them for recovery is about 25 million euros.