A man was among 52 passengers and a crew on board the An-24 that crashed near the village of Varandei in Nenets autonomous region on March 16, 2005. Twenty eight people died in the crash, twenty four survived.
Relatives and colleagues of the victims set off on a trip to Varandei one year after the accident. They wanted to give a wake and take part in the inauguration of a chapel that was built in memory of those who died in the crash. The 47-year-old oilman Gennady Spirin, a resident of Tyumen, also boarded the helicopter bound for Varandei. He was one of the survivors who managed to crawl out of the plane before it exploded.
Somebody asked him before a new flight: “Aren’t you afraid to go there again? You nearly died that time.” Spirin answered: “I want to pay homage to my comrades!”
Two helicopters took off that day. The passengers arrived to the location. They had a wake. A good deal of alcohol was reportedly consumed during the wake. Then they boarded the helicopters for a return flight to Varandei.
The first helicopter landed safely. The second one crashed into the ground near the village. One passenger died in a crash, 15 persons were injured. Spirin got off lightly in his second crash. He broke two ribs and a leg. The first crash made him partially deaf, he also suffered a brain concussion and his spinal column was damaged.
Gennady Spirin spoke to us at a hospital in Naryan Mar where he receives treatment for injuries sustained in both crashes. “I couldn’t sleep a wink before that flight, I was too uptight. I fell asleep shortly after boarding the chopper. I don’t even remember the engines start. A sharp pain woke me up. I just didn’t understand what was going on. I thought I was having a dream about myself surviving the first crash. Then I realized it was all for real. I have survived another crash! It felt like time went to a standstill. After a while, they put me in another chopper and transported me to Varandei,” said Spirin.
“I was on board the plane that crashed to the ground on March 16, 2005. And then I boarded the chopper that fell down a few meters away from the runaway. Speaking of the river you can’t walk into twice…”
Translated by Guerman Grachev