The Antonov 12, owned by a Ukrainian company Meridian LTD, was carrying about 11 tons of armaments, including illuminating mortar mines, bound for Bangladesh, the minister said.
Regarding the identity of the crew “I think they are also Ukrainians but we have no information on this subject, they are not Serbs”, specified Mr. Stefanovic during a press conference.
Ukraine’s consul in Thessaloniki, Vadim Sabluk, visited the crash site on Sunday where he informed authorities of the identities of the eight crew members and stressed that the plane’s final destination was Bangladesh, according to Greek media.
Denys Bohdanovytch, general manager of Meridian, told German television channel Deutsche Welle that the crew members were all Ukrainians.
The Serbian Defense Minister, meanwhile, said the delivery of weapons had been agreed with the Bangladeshi Defense Ministry “in accordance with international rules”.
“Unfortunately, some media speculated that the plane was carrying weapons destined for Ukraine, but that is totally untrue,” he said.
– Fireball –
Videos shared by witnesses on social media showed images of the plane caught in a ball of fire before touching down. Other videos broadcast by a local channel showed debris from the Antonov scattered over a wide area.
Residents have been banned from going to fields near the scene of the tragedy until authorities can evacuate the wreckage and unexploded ordnance.
A local resident, Giorgos Archontopoulos, told state broadcaster ERT he sensed something was wrong when he heard the plane’s engine.
“At 10:45 a.m. (7:45 p.m. GMT), I was startled by the sound of the plane’s engine,” he said. “I got out and saw the engine on fire.”
The aircraft took off from Nis airport (southern Serbia) on Saturday around 8:40 p.m. local time (6:40 p.m. GMT), carrying weapons whose exporter is the private Serbian company Valir, according to Nebojsa Stefanovic.
Greek media reported that he requested permission to make an emergency landing at Kavala airport but failed to obtain it.
Greek rescue services were using a drone on Sunday to survey the wreckage of the plane, as fears over the toxicity of the cargo forced them to keep their distance.
Fire chief Marios Apostolidis told reporters that “firefighters equipped with special equipment and measuring instruments approached the plane’s point of impact and closely examined the fuselage and other parts scattered in the fields”.
Search teams will operate on the ground when the area is deemed secure, he said. Thirteen men from the special fire brigade teams and 26 firefighters were near the crash site.
Two firefighters were taken to hospital for breathing difficulties due to toxic fumes.
The Athens news agency said an investigation would be opened to determine the causes of the accident.