Relatives of Smolensk victims stranded in Belarus

Families of the Smolensk crash victims are returning to Warsaw, Monday, after aircraft failure forced a large number of the pilgrimage group, including First Lady Anna Komorowska, to stay overnight in Belarus.

Currently an Embraer and Boeing chartered by LOT Polish Airlines are transporting the group, numbering 118, back to Poland.

"The pilot of the plane, in which we were supposed to fly back to Warsaw, told us that he cannot start the engines," said Pawel Deresz, widower of leftist politician Jolanta Szymanek-Deresz, who died in the Smolensk air catastrophe.

"The starter in the Boeing 737 turned out to be faulty but it wouldn't affect the safety of the passengers," said Jacek Balcer, spokesman for LOT.

"We were told that there are some free seats in the other plane that was supposed to take off after ours so people with children switched aircrafts," adds Joanna Racewicz, widow of Pawel Janeczek, a special services officer who also died in the crash.

Earlier, a plane with 80 relatives of the Smolensk crash victims on board landed in Warsaw on Sunday 22.00 CET.

The remaining 118 participants of the pilgrimage, including First Lady Anna Komorowska and Ewa Komorowska, who organised the visit, stayed at the airport in Vitebsk waiting for another plane to come and take them home.

The plane landed at Vitebsk in the evening but, again, it did not take off to Warsaw because of technical failure. "An additional generator which starts the engine failed this time. We had to eliminate the fault and it was already late at night so we decided to accommodate the families of the Smolensk crash victims at the Luchesa hotel in Vitebsk and transport them to Poland the next day," LOT spokesman Jacek Balcer reported.

"It's just bad luck. We're not panicking," Pawel Deresz said yesterday. "We were well treated. All guests of the luxury hotel were asked to check out in order to make room for us," concluded Joanna Racewicz. (mg/jb)

Sources: IAR/PAP/TVN24


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