Ukraine's interior minister is among the dead as his helicopter crashes at a school
Updated January 18, 2023 at 11:53 AM ET
BROVARY, Ukraine — Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky and a child are among at least 14 people who died in a helicopter crash Wednesday morning, after the aircraft slammed into an area holding a kindergarten and its playground in Brovary, an eastern suburb of Kyiv.
Officials initially said the death toll was even worse, but Ukraine's State Emergency Service said later that 14 people had died, including one child, along with 25 people who were injured, including 11 children. The update came after authorities identified bodies and concluded search and rescue operations.
"It is an indescribable pain," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said as he extended his condolences to the families and friends of those who were lost.
All nine people aboard the helicopter were killed, including the three-person crew.
The cause of the crash is not yet known. The area was under heavy fog early Wednesday. But Ukraine is also at war with Russia, which has frequently fired missiles at civilian areas around the country, including an apartment building in the southeastern city of Dnipro.
Neighbors describe fog, and a tower of flames
The helicopter went down in a residential area that is home to apartment buildings, a shopping center and colorful playgrounds.
The crash sent a door-sized panel from the helicopter and other parts of the aircraft flying across the kindergarten's playground. There and in an adjacent area, blankets were used to cover bodies on the ground as charred wreckage lay nearby.
Near the scene of the crash, local residents brought flowers and small knit stuffed animals, creating a memorial to those who were lost as emergency crews continued to clear debris from the area.
Nina Letun, 63, watched workers clear the site alongside her two grandchildren, Vova, 5, and Viktoria, 6. Vova is a student at the school.
"We came just to see what happened – and to realize that he won't go to this kindergarten anymore," Letun said.
Vova, wearing a puffy blue jacket and a knit hat with a pompom on it, wasn't at the school this morning.
"He was sick yesterday, that's why today he stayed with me," Letun said. "If he wasn't sick, he would have been there."
When they first heard the crash, Letun said, her granddaughter started to scream — at the beginning of the war, her family lived in a region that was under Russian occupation.
Letun wept as she thought about the children who died at the school. After the explosion, she said, "I saw a fire, the fire was bigger than that 12-story building" — pointing to an apartment complex that looms behind the school.
One mother, Inga Litchenko, came by pushing her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Elyzaveta, in a stroller. She says she was planning to send Elyzaveta to this very school.
"It's very frightening, you can see that the helicopter crashed into the kindergarten," Litchenko said. "I want to emphasize that it was very foggy and I don't know why they decided to take the helicopter in such weather."
Official inquiry will consider three main explanations
The Security Service of Ukraine launched an investigation on Wednesday, saying it will explore three potential explanations for the crash: that the aircraft malfunctioned; that it flew despite bad visibility; and that it was targeted by deliberate actions.
The Ukrainian government says the interior ministry's entire leadership died, including first deputy Yevhen Yenin, State Secretary of Ministry of Internal Affairs Yuri Lubkovych, and staff members.
Hours after the disaster, Ukraine's government appointed Ihor Klymenko, the chief of Ukraine's National Police, as the acting minister of internal affairs.
According to an official from the president's office, Monastyrsky's group had planned to travel to one of the country's hot spots. Ukraine's interior ministry oversees law enforcement, the police force, the national guard and state emergency services.
Migaki reported from Ukraine. Chappell reported from Washington, D.C.
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