Crash of the Polish Air Force One, 2014 Status Report By Maria Szonert Binienda, J.D.
III. Rescue Operation and Medical Examination
According to the Polish Response, FTG officers did not immediately notify the Severny Airport emergency rescue units about the crash and did not convey the information about the crash to the Smolensk district rescue units. The first airport rescue units were called ten minutes after the crash. Thus, first fire engines arrived on the crash scene fourteen minutes after the crash. The first medical unit arrived seventeen minutes after the crash. Nevertheless, the Russians in charge of rescue and recovery operation immediately announced that nobody survived. This information was instantly forwarded to Poland even though the body of the President of Poland was found only four hours later. As a result of this hasty announcement that nobody survived, medical emergency vehicles were sent back without letting paramedic even see any victims. The rescue crew did not conduct any rescue operations and was ordered by the military officials to withdraw because all passengers died.44 However, according to post-mortem reports at least one body was described as “warm” at the time the post mortem report was conducted.45
Recovered bodies were moved to Moscow where the autopsies were conducted. Polish pathologists were not allowed to participate in the autopsies. There is no evidence that x-rays or microscopic slides that can be examined under the microscope or proper toxicology tests were done, all of which helps determine whether there was or was not an explosion on board. Explosion usually does harm to the lungs of the victims. According to Dr. Michael Baden, a renowned American pathologist, photographs and microscopic slides should have been taken during the autopsy to see whether there was any damage to the lungs. There is no information that such autopsies were conducted.46
According to Dr. Baden, Russians should have examined lungs and air passages with naked eye and under the microscope. If there was an explosion in the airplane, there might be tears in the lung that could be seen at the autopsy under the microscope. If there was a fire on the airplane before the crash, the passages would inhale carbon monoxide. The microscopic slides of the air passages can tell whether the person was breathing after explosion or after a fire. If there were pieces of a bomb device that were blown into the person they could be identified in part by X-rays taken after the crash. Normally X-Rays are done to all victims in all airplane crashes. The examiner conducting autopsy first should examine the skin, front and back sides, to check if there was any perforation. If there was any perforation, such area has to be dissected to check if there was some foreign body blown in even though it doesn’t show on the X-ray. There is no record that all the above steps were taken by the Russians.47
A number of bodies at the crash site were half naked, with no external clothing.48 The description of the condition of the body made at the crash site frequently did not correspond with the description of the body included in medical protocols made in Moscow. Also, according to the families of the victims, the bodies were not cleaned in Moscow and some bodies did not have any marks of sections or autopsies.49
It is a well-established principle that a post mortem report should provide an individual cause of death, precisely defined for each individual victim, and not merely as a member of a group of victims. The cause of death should be determined based on a dominant factor that led to death of that particular person. However, with respect to all victims of the Smolensk Crash, the cause of death was determined as “multiple injuries.” Such approach proves that the medical examination was superficial, did not include a detailed analysis of the injuries, and there was no effort to categorize the contributions of various injuries to the death of that individual.
Due to unprecedented destruction of some bodies, it was not possible to collect blood and urine for testing from all the victims. But even in the instances where this material was collected, the full range of testing was not conducted in a timely manner. For example, only 16 victims were tested for carbon monoxide. Also, the process of collecting and protecting the samples for testing was inappropriate. Many samples were sent for chemical and toxicology testing more than two years after the crash. No testing was done on the victim’s clothing described as burnt or charred.50
Accordingly, no detailed autopsies were conducted. Some bodies were desecrated post-mortem, misidentified and ultimately buried in wrong graves. The families of the victims were not allowed to open caskets before the burial in Poland. Furthermore, the Polish prosecutors did not conduct any autopsies of the bodies upon their arrival in Poland, in direct violation of the Polish law. As a result, the families of the victims cannot be certain that their loved ones are buried in their family graves. The case of Anna Walentynowicz, the founding mother of the Solidarity Movement who died in the crash, serves as one of the most egregious examples of the unacceptable handling the bodies of the victims of the Smolensk Massacre. It also exemplifies the treatment of victims’ families in cruel and inhumane manner.51 Another scandalous act that aimed at humiliating the Polish people was the leaking of a photograph of a naked mutilated body of the President of Poland Lech Kaczynski to the internet.
44 A Polish cameraman arrived at the crash scene before any rescue crew and recorded Russian military men walking in-between debris immediately after the crash. Another private recording of the crash scene made immediately after the crash recorded military forces at the crash site as well as gun shots. This recording surfaced on the internet immediately after the crash and is considered original. See: “Story behind 1:24”, http://bit.ly/1mgRdn6 (retrieved March 17, 2014).
45 S. Zagrodzki, „Weryfikacja oficjalnych raportów ustalających przebieg katastrofy samolotu Tu- 154M z 10 kwietnia 2010 roku w oparciu o mapę dyslokacji ciał ofiar oraz analizę dokumentacji sądowo-medycznej i badań toksykologicznych niektórych ciał ofiar,” II Konferencja Smoleńska, October 21-22, 2013, Warsaw, Poland; http://bit.ly/1mgRmqN, (retrieved March 17, 2014).
46 Exclusive Interview with Dr. Michael Baden, Gazeta Polska, March 29, 2012; http://bit.ly/1mgRw1k; (retrieved March 17, 2014).
48 Supra Note 44, S. Zagrodzki, „Weryfikacja oficjalnych raportów.”
49 Małgorzata Wasserman, „Dokumentacja medyczna sekcji zwłok śp. Z. Wassermanna wykonanej przez stronę rosyjską, a polskie dokumenty sekcyjne.” II Konferencja Smoleńska, October 21-22, 2013, Warsaw, Poland; http://bit.ly/1mgRmqN (retrieved March 17, 2014).
50 Supra Note 45, S. Zagrodzki, „Weryfikacja oficjalnych raportów.” A piece of the charred human jaw that was found on the crash site outside the fire zone indicates explosion.
51 P. Styrna, “Smolensk–Inconvenient Tragedy.” SFPPR News & Analysis, April 22, 2012; http://bit.ly/1mgRYwp See also: Meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for the Investigation of the Smolensk Crash dated December 11, 2013, on the work of the subcommittee on medical and pathological reports; http://bit.ly/1mgS6My (retrieved March 17, 2014).
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