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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 Missed Flight Over Visa Hassle

APTatyana Ostapenko weeping over a passenger list.
Visas problems were all that stood between the air tragedy and the five people who failed to make the flight.

Dim Khuzhin, who was to oversee the group of students from Bashkortostan, was furious when the Spanish Embassy balked at issuing visas last week for his wife, Klara, who was also the group's doctor, their two children Diana and Rasul and an assistant.

He only found out that he and his family had escaped death when they turned up at the Spanish Embassy on Tuesday morning to try to sort out the visas.

The embassy said the visa application forms had been incomplete.

"They were not refused visas; the issuing was delayed," Spanish Embassy spokesman Grigorio Laso said. "They just hadn't supplied all the necessary documents."

The family and the assistant, Yevgenia Sigalova, had thought they would miss a few precious days of the two-week vacation when the embassy handed out visas to the other 49 members of the group Friday.

Laso said the embassy had gotten angry telephone calls about the delay of the five visas.

The Bashkortostan group's Moscow travel agent, Tatyana Ostapenko, was to meet the Khuzhins at the embassy at 8 a.m. to help them resolve the visa problem and arrange a later flight to Spain.

"But after I got up at 6 a.m. and watched the news, I went to the office instead," said Ostapenko, the general director of the Soglasiye youth travel agency. "This was the only place I could do anything if anything at all could be done."

The Khuzhins, however, remained unaware of the crash. "They called me sometime early in the morning wondering where I was and why I wasn't at the embassy," Ostapenko said. "It turns out they didn't know anything.

"What could I tell them? I told them that all the kids had died. That the plane had crashed. What could a person say under such circumstances?"

As often happens when tragedy strikes, the Khuzhins had difficulty fathoming what happened. "They just kept asking for strangely irrelevant details, as if that would change anything."

Ostapenko said the Khuzhins and Sigalova were picked up by officials of the Bashkortostan representative office in Moscow and were due to take a train back home to Ufa in the evening. Nobody picked up the telephone at Bashkortostan's representative office.

The Spanish Embassy said the angry phone calls were replaced Tuesday with calls of gratitude, thanking the embassy for staunchly sticking to its visa rules.