Ukraine’s interior minister and a child were among at least 14 people killed on Wednesday when a helicopter crashed into a preschool and set it ablaze in a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.
The crash of the French Super Puma helicopter in Brovary, northeast of the capital, caused a large fire. An entire side of the school building was charred.
Debris was scattered over a muddy playground. In a courtyard lay several dead interior ministry staff, their blue uniforms and black boots visible from under foil blankets draped over the bodies. A large chunk of the aircraft had landed on a car, destroying it.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the full casualty toll was still being determined and said he had ordered an investigation into the “terrible tragedy.”
“The pain is unspeakable,” he said in a statement.
Ukrainian state emergency services said 14 people in total — including three helicopter crew members and six others on board — had been killed. Government agencies had earlier published higher death tolls ranging up to 18.
The emergency service said one child was killed on the ground and 11 other children were among 25 injured people. The agency had earlier reported a higher death toll of children, but revised it down without explanation.
“We saw wounded people, we saw children. There was a lot of fog here, everything was strewn all around. We could hear screams, we ran towards them,” Glib, a 17-year-old local resident, told Reuters at the scene.
“We took the children and passed them over the fence, away from the nursery as it was on fire, especially the second floor.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed
Cause of the crash unclear
National police Chief Ihor Klymenko said Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi had been killed alongside his first deputy, Yevheniy Yenin, and other officials in the helicopter, which belonged to the state emergency service.
“There were children and … staff in the nursery at the time of this tragedy,” Kyiv region Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba wrote on Telegram.
Officials said it was too early to determine what caused the crash. None immediately spoke of an attack by Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February.
The SBU State Security Service said it would consider several possible causes, including a breach of flight rules, a technical malfunction or intentional destruction.
“Unfortunately, the sky does not forgive mistakes, as pilots say, but it’s really too early to talk about the causes,” air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said, noting it could take at least several weeks to investigate.
International dignitaries sent condolences and paid tribute to Monastyrskyi, 42, a lawyer and lawmaker appointed in 2021 to run the ministry responsible for the police. He is the most senior Ukrainian official to die since the war began.