One of the two survivors of a Ukrainian military plane crash has died in hospital giving room for the death toll to climb to 26 on Saturday after three more bodies were found.
President Volodymyr Zelensky had visited at the scene of the tragedy near the eastern city of Kharkiv where an Antonov-26 transport plane carrying 20 young cadets and seven crew members crashed Friday evening.
The plane burst into flames upon landing around two kilometres from Chuguiv military airbase while Firefighters extinguished the inferno after an hour.
Twenty-two persons were confirmed dead and two people survived but on Saturday three more bodies were found and one of the two survivors died in hospital.
Zelensky posted on Facebook that “Ukraine has lost 26 worthy sons,” and declared Saturday a day of mourning.
He said, “Twenty-five died on the spot,” with one more cadet dying in hospital from extensive burns.
“It is difficult to find words to express the pain of this loss,”Zelensky said adding that the cause of the crash should be quickly established and called for an “objective” investigation.
Ukraine’s SBU security service stated that the plane was performing a training flight but the cadets of the Kharkiv National Air Force University were not involved in piloting it.
The security service, while making reference to preliminary information, said the pilot reported an engine failure and seven minutes later the plane hit the ground.
Defence Minister, Andriy Taran suggested that “the plane likely caught the ground with its wing” and then caught fire.
He added that, “Everything went according to plan: the plane was performing a training flight for cadets.”
He also disclosed that the instructor was at the wheel and cadets took turns to sit next to the pilot.
Taran said the plane was made in 1977 but was in a good condition.
A number of foreign leaders including Polish President Andrzej Duda, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell have expressed their condolences.
The US embassy in Ukraine said on Facebook, “We send our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the cadets, officers, and crew killed and injured in the An-26 plane crash.”