Four men carry a body in a body bag on a stretcher a stone’s throw from a children’s playground. Here, in Brovary, Ukraine, the Interior Minister’s helicopter crashed into a kindergarten on Wednesday.
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The tragedy, which claimed at least fourteen lives, including Minister Denys Monastyrsky, happened just after 8 a.m. The device struck the building, killing one child and injuring at least 11 others in this city of 100,000 people east of Kyiv.
“The children had injuries. Their faces were torn and covered with blood. We got a girl out, I wrapped her in a jacket, she was injured,” says Dmytro Serbine, who lives right next to the crash site.
“She probably didn’t understand what was going on. She didn’t tremble, she didn’t cry. I held her (in my arms),” he continues to AFP, adding that he handed the child over to his father, who only recognized him afterwards.
At the crash site, debris could be seen near apartment buildings: a machine, a door, two crashed cars. And bodies were wrapped up and carried one by one on a stretcher to a van.
Dmytro Serbine vividly remembers the moment of the crash.
“I heard a buzzing sound, turned to look out the window, thought it was a (drone). I saw flames,” says this man, who was one of the first to help.
“I immediately ran out, jumped over the fence, smashed windows and doors. Two police officers and another man were with me. We started to evacuate the children from the kindergarten (…) My wife took some children home. They looked for their parents, they cried,” he continues.
“I feel very sorry for the children and the dead,” adds Dmytro.
“I heard noises, a buzz, then a bang,” said Glib Kassyan, who was at a friend’s house and who said he initially didn’t pay attention to the explosion related to war and regular Russian bombing.
“Then I heard screams, children came running out, they started going over the fence, I started taking them, helping them, giving them first aid. There were a lot,” he recalls.
“One boy had a burn on his head… Another girl had bloody cuts and bruises. We treated the wounds with hydrogen peroxide, applied a bandage, gave him candy and lit a cartoon,” says Kasyan.
The children were then reunited with their parents. Glib says he didn’t see any serious injuries among them. “Most of them had bruises and cuts,” he says.
Anna, mother of three and a half year old Viktoria, is in shock. Her daughter is a kindergarten survivor.
“It’s just shocking… The main thing is that our child survived. Thank God she’s fine. She is unharmed, alive,” she told AFP.
The family fled the village of Dymerka in northern Ukraine after their home was damaged in shelling in March, shortly after Russia began invading the country on February 24.
“We fled one (disaster) and found ourselves in another. There was no accommodation there and the kindergarten was destroyed here,” she notes.
The crash, the circumstances of which will be the subject of an investigation, caused the deaths of the Interior Minister, his deputy Yevgueni Ienin and the State Secretary for Interior Youriï Lubkovych, among others.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described “unspeakable pain”.