"But I really want to ask [people] not to persecute them," wrote crash survivor Mikhail Savchenko
A man who survived the deadly plane crash in Russia that killed dozens of people, including one American, is speaking out about passengers who grabbed their luggage and potentially slowed the evacuation process for dozens of others.
On Sunday, an Aeroflot Superjet 100 carrying 78 people from Moscow to Murmansk experienced an emergency that forced it to return to the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, where it then crash-landed and caught fire.
Many who were aboard the plane were able to escape through the emergency exits, according to the BBC, but 41 people perished. Passengers and crew members who survived said the aircraft was hit by lightning shortly after takeoff, multiple outlets reported.
On Monday, one of the survivors penned a Facebook post that criticized passengers who took the time to grab their luggage before evacuating as the plane was in flames.
While Savchenko rebuked their actions, he did not call on those passengers to be persecuted — instead, he turned more sympathetic, saying they likely weren’t thinking correctly in a life-or-death situation.
“But I really want to ask [people] not to persecute them, I am sure that it is very hard for them now,” Savchenko wrote, according to the New York Post‘s translation. “I do not think that at least one person in this burning hell coolly and deliberately dragged suitcases.”
“I do not know how the psyche works in such situations, [that is] a question for the experts,” continued his post, which followed a video he shared that showed passengers carrying their luggage as the plane burned behind them.
Of his own escape, Savchenko said: “No, I didn’t drag my suitcases. No, I didn’t fly business. No, the moment I was filming, there were no people around me that I could help. But believe me, it’s not much easier.”
Savchenko did offer praise for the plane’s crew, writing, “If it weren’t for them, there would be many more victims.”
Another survivor of the crash described the lightning bolt that appeared before the plane began its emergency landing.
“It was very strong, and could be heard throughout the cabin,” Dmitry Kharinin told a local news outlet on Tuesday, according to CBS News, before adding that he was unsure if it hit the plane or not.
Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause of the crash, and pilot error is at the center of what they are assessing, ABC News reported.
Among the 41 people killed in the crash was 22-year-old Jeremy Brooks of New Mexico, who recently graduated college and was heading to Russia to work as a fly-fishing guide, his former boss told CBS.
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The airline released a statement on their website following the crash that offered sympathies for the families of those who perished.
“Aeroflot extends its deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of those who lost their lives on flight SU1492 Moscow-Murmansk,” the airline wrote. “The crew did everything in its power to save passenger lives and provide emergency assistance to those involved. Tragically, they were unable to save all of those aboard.”