Four people have miraculously survived a plane crash in remote Afghanistan that left a Russian millionaire and his wife dead.
The Falcon 10 air ambulance got into trouble on a medical emergency flight to bring a seriously ill Russian tourist – the millionaire’s wife – home from Thailand.
But the woman and her husband both tragically died in the crash in the mountainous Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan. One theory is the Russian-registered aircraft was low on fuel, and that it struggled against strong headwinds.
It was first reported that all those on board were feared dead. However, against the odds, the two pilots and two medics survived – despite a failure of both engines.
The first pictures have now emerged of the shell-shocked survivors. They are understood to have trekked from the plane’s wreckage to a mountain village.
The youngest of the four survivors – believed to be paramedic Igor Syvorotkin, 26 – trekked to the nearest Afghan village, named Pedu, in fierce cold.
He is reported to have used sign language to summon help.
Three of the stunned survivors were seen today in a picture, and poor quality footage shows the mangled wreckage of the executive jet in the snow.
The millionaire couple who died were Russian entrepreneur Anatoly Evsyukov and his 59-year-old wife Anna Evsyukova, who lived in Russia’s Rostov region, close to the war zone in Ukraine.
She was being flown to Moscow after she became seriously ill on a long winter vacation in Thailand.
The family made the decision to use a medical evacuation flight so she could be treated in Moscow, but the plane came down as it was flying over Afghanistan.
The Russian embassy in Kabul confirmed today that the bodies of Evsyukov and his wife were found on board the stricken plane’s wreck.
The pilots, who somehow survived bringing the plane down in the snow-covered mountains, were identified as Dmitry Belyakov and Arkady Grachev.
The plane glided for up to 25 minutes after losing power, said Russia’s Shot media, revealing new details of the remarkable crash landing.
‘Before the tragedy, the pilots raised the nose of the plane by 15–20 degrees to at least slightly soften the blow,’ said the report. ‘If they had not done this, the plane would have crashed nose-first into the ground, killing everyone on board.
‘Dense snow that fell in the mountains could also have played a role.
‘Yet, because of the tilt ‘the impact fell on the middle of the plane’s fuselage and the passenger compartment’.
Grachev is the ex-husband of Ekaterina Agapova, the woman who headed the company – ATLETIK-GRUPP LLC – which was responsible for the evacuation service.
Pictures show the couple – who have a son – when they were married.
After the crash she said: ‘Nothing is known yet, now I’m trying to understand the situation and understand what happened. There is no confirmed data yet.’
The father of pilot Arkady Grachev told how he had gone to pray in church fearing the worst for his son after hearing about the air crash.
‘We all buried him,’ said Yuri Grachev, a former colonel in the Russian missile forces. ‘We went to church.
‘At the end of the service, a message came that four survived. This is fantastic.’
The father called his son a hero for landing the plane in extremely difficult conditions. His feat ‘will go down in aviation history’, he said.
Reports in Moscow say she has since gone to ground.
The two surviving paramedics were named as Igor Syvorotkin and Pavel Popov.
Reports say the survivors suffered minor but not major wounds.
A Russian helicopter was today flying to a village near the crash site to take the men to the capital of Kabul for medical checks, before an onward flight to Moscow.
Argumenty i Fakty new outlet in Russia said today: ‘Ekaterina and Arkady divorced, but they still had a plane which, media report said, was manufactured in 1978 and lately was on its last breath.
‘Nevertheless, the ex-spouses continued to use it, which led to the tragedy.’
Izvestia newspaper reported that the pilots may not have been qualified to fly the aircraft with passengers.
‘Izvestia’s source reported that the flight was announced as an empty flight without passengers or cargo,’ it said.
‘Pilots Dmitry Belyakov and Arkady Grachev of the Falcon 10 aircraft had minimal experience in flying this aircraft.
‘They completed training only in 2023.
‘The pilots had private pilot certificates, but with such a certificate they could not fly an aircraft operating a commercial flight.’
Syvorotkin’s mother said: ‘We know he is alive, he called us.’
The business jet with tail number RA-09011 had flown out from Russia to pick up the sickly woman.
A video shows it leaving Russia en route to Thailand.
On the return, it flew from U-Tapao, near Pattaya in Thailand, where the woman had been hospitalised for several weeks after becoming ill with a mystery sickness.
It then refuelled in Gaya, India.
It was due to make another refuelling stop in Tashkent, Uzbekistan before flying to Zhukovsky airport in Moscow.
However, reports say it got into trouble over Afghanistan and at 7.05pm local time on Saturday and sought to land in Tajikistan on an unscheduled stop.
One engine failed at 7.19pm, and the other ten minutes later, and the plane disappeared from radar at about 7.30pm local time, 35 miles from Kulob airport in Tajikistan.
The crash is the first since Russian planes were subject to sanctions of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
This has caused multiple emergency landings and air incidents due to lack of spare parts and maintenance involving Western suppliers.
However, it is unclear that the sanctions would have been imposed on an air ambulance.
This is reported to be the ninth incident with a Russian plane since the beginning of the year and the eighth to occur during a flight in the last nine days.
The son of the dead couple Vitali Evsyukov, 41, was not permitted on the small executive air ambulance as only one accompanying passenger was allowed. He flew on a scheduled flight to Moscow, learning of the horrific crash after he landed.
Anatoly Evsyukov was earlier decorated by Vladimir Putin’s regional governor for ‘valiant’ work building the economy in Rostov region.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the downed Russian plane was found in the Kuf Ab district of Badakhshan.
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