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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Czech Jet Crashes Into Bulldozer on Runway

nvestigators tried Thursday to determine what caused a Czechoslovak Airlines jet to crash into a bulldozer at Sheremetyevo airport shortly before take-off, denting a wing and causing fuel to pour onto the runway.

The incident occurred late Wednesday night shortly before a scheduled CSA flight of a Russian-made Tu-154 plane from Moscow to Prague. None of the 43 passengers and crew were injured.

Passenger Lynn Kononczuk, sales manager for British Petroleum's Moscow office, said she felt a jolt as the plane taxied down the runway. She then looked out of the window to see fuel coming out of the left wing.

"It was like a waterfall," she said.

The crew stopped the plane in its tracks and turned off the lights, but then experienced some difficulty as they tried to evacuate the passengers through the emergency exit, Kononczuk said.

"The girls did not know how to open the chute; they only knew how to open the door," she said.

As a result, the plane had to wait about 15 minutes for a mobile staircase to arrive, Kononczuk said. Fortunately, the spilling fuel did not ignite, although fire engines came to the scene just in case.

Some officials blamed the pilot for not seeing the bulldozer near or on the runway, despite the poor dusk visibility at about 10:15 P.M. Wednesday night.

"There are repairs going on there, of course, and these tractors have been there for a long time," said Sheremetyevo's police chief Ivan Daniluk. "The crew wasn't experienced because they could have gone to the other side to get around the bulldozer."

Investigators are still sorting out whether the bulldozer was in motion or not and whether it was on the runway or off to the side. The repairs Daniluk mentioned have been going on for several years, aviation officials say.

A CSA official declined to give the details of the incident, but said the pilot acted properly before take-off.

"In no case was the pilot to blame," said CSA's station manager Frantisek Rajchl. "But an investigation is going on right now. I cannot tell you anything more."

Vadim Serov, vice president of the Sheremetyevo Pilots' Union, said that most aviators are aware of the repair work on the runway and are especially cautious as a result.