UKRAINE (AFP) – At Ukraine’s Boryspil airport, flowers and candles were laid out in front of portraits of the Ukrainian crew killed in the Boeing passenger jet crash in Iran on Wednesday.
One couple sobbed, covering their faces with their hands. Squatting down, several flight attendants arranged candles.
Dozens of people – airline staff, passengers and locals – gathered in the departure hall at the airport outside Kiev to pay their respects to the crew, five men and four women.
“I knew them all,” said Artem, a Ukraine International Airlines pilot, who laid a bouquet of red roses by the portraits of his deceased colleagues.
He said he had met the entire crew before their departure for Tehran.
“They were very worried, had a bad feeling,” he said.
The air disaster which killed all 176 people on board took place against a background of severe tension between the US and Iran and shortly after Tehran fired missiles at bases hosting US troops in Iraq, although there was no indication the two were linked.
“I wished them a good flight, they said the same thing to me. And then in the morning I discovered all this. It’s terrible, terrible, they were alive and today it’s over,” Artem added.
Vadym, in his forties, “knew no-one” but came “as a compatriot to express sympathy”.
“It’s so sad. Many were so young,” he said.
Another bouquet was brought by a young man who recognised one of the flight attendants as his former English teacher. “I saw her name, then her photo, and I came here. She was a great teacher,” he said.
Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 took off from Tehran airport at 6.10am and disappeared from radars minutes later.
The vast majority of the passengers were non-Ukrainians, including 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians.
Of the 11 Ukrainians on the plane nine were crew. They perished in the private airline’s only fatal crash in its 28 year history.
Ukrainians also delivered flowers to the Canadian and Iranian embassies in Kiev. “It was one of our best planes with an excellent crew,” airline president Levguen Dykhne said earlier on Wednesday.
He said the probability human error by the crew was to blame was “minimal, we are not even considering it”.