Crash of the Polish Air Force One, 2014 Status Report
By Maria Szonert Binienda, J.D.
IV. Russian Investigation
The key evidence was not properly secured, identified, documented, and preserved. A methodology used for evidence identification was not defined, and a chain of custody for the key evidence was not preserved. The wreckage of the plane was subjected to destruction the next day after the crash. The crash site was left unprotected. Thus, personal belongings of the victims were stolen, including credit cards, and many parts of the aircraft went missing. Examples of manipulation and destruction of evidence at the crash site are presented below.
Debris Location Manipulated
Satellite pictures of the crash site taken by the GeoEye satellite demonstrate that the ground position of the plane’s left horizontal stabilizer was moved between April 11 and April 12 over 20 meters closer to the first marks on the ground of the wreckage site. The new position from April 12 was considered as the original position in the Russian Report.
 Photo (above) Position of left horizontal stabilizer on April 11 vs April 12. Source: K. Nowaczyk.
 Photo (above) Left stabilizer marked as item 33 in a new position. Source: Figure 35, Russian Report.
Systematic Destruction of Evidence
The destruction of the airplane debris took place the next day after the crash without assuring adequate documentation regarding the position of the debris, without photographing the original shape of the debris, and properly marking the fragments for future reconstruction. Instead, all windows in the fuselage were smashed immediately after the crash, large sections of the airplane were cut and crashed by heavy equipment, cables were cut and pulled out, heavy parts were further deformed and damaged by being dragged by excavator and heavy machinery, large areas of the crash site with smaller debris were bulldozed, some parts of the crash scene were quickly covered up with fresh soil or with concrete. Deformation of the tail of the airplane was ‘repaired’ before it was moved to the final storage site. Finally, largest airplane parts were moved to the concrete pavement of the airport and were left there without any protection for many months. Several tons of small parts were piled up nearby like trash without any order or protection.
In October 2010, the Polish press published photos showing the process of demolition of the wreckage of the Polish Air Force One at the Severny Airport in Smolensk right after the crash. Video footage of the Russian workers destroying the wreckage of the airplane on April 11, 2010, in particular breaking the windows and bulldozering the site, was shown in a documentary “Misja specjalna” by A. Gargas.52 Some of the scenes from this video and photographs made by the Polish reporters that day are reproduced below.
 Photo (above) Handling of the Wreckage of the Polish Air Force One on April 11, 2010. Source: J. Gruszczyński
Dr. Jacek Gieras, an American scientist and IEEE fellow, points out that there is no evidence that any examination of the electrical equipment of the Polish Air Force One took place at the crash site or anywhere else. After the destruction of the electrical system it is extremely difficult to determine whether the electric system of Tu-154M operated correctly in the last seconds of the fatal flight or whether it could have contributed to the explosion in the wing.53
Before all body parts of the victims were recovered and fragments of the airplane were collected, a concrete pavement was poured over some parts of the crash site and a concrete road was constructed over it.
 Destruction of windows in the fuselage on April 11, 2010 Source: A. Gargas
 Cutting of the wing, April 11, 2010 Source: A. Gargas
 Cutting electric wires, April 11, 2010; Source: A. Gargas
 Photo (above) Wreckage of the Polish Air Force One on the pavement of Severny Airport.
Many trees and shrubs were cut down in the vicinity of the crash site, grass was burnt and top soil was removed, especially near the location of Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) number 38, which was hidden in the Russian Report.
 Photo (above) TAWS #38 area: satellite photo from April 12, 2010 (top) and June 24, 2010 (bottom); the lack of normal growth can be observed on the June photo in the area of TAWS # 38. Source: K. Nowaczyk.
After many requests of the Polish side, large parts of the wreckage were fenced off and covered by tarp. Later, a plywood structure was constructed over the wreckage of the plane. For the second anniversary of the Smolensk Massacre, Russia released photographs of freshly washed and nicely painted fuselage of the wreckage with new windows installed.54 There was no attempt to reconstruct the airplane.
Crash Site Unprotected
Despite immediate large scale cleaning efforts with the use of bulldozers and heavy earth moving equipment, the crash site was left unprotected and wide open to visitors. As a result, personal belongings of the victims were stolen, money was withdrawn from credit cards stolen from the victims, and cell phones of some victims were used after the crash. The onlookers were able to pick up fragments of the airplane, sections of victim clothing or their personal belongings. Even human body parts or bone fragments were collected many months after the crash by the public.55
 Photo (above) Crash Site Unprotected; Source: K. Nowaczyk
Unusually Large Number of Small Debris
 Photo (right) Example of a piece of debris found before the main crash site by Polish archeologists 6 months after the crash.
Six months after the crash, a team of Polish archeologists was finally allowed to examine the crash site. The Polish experts found ten thousand small pieces of debris on the surface, including 28 pieces of human remains, and identified with metal detectors sensing up to 20 cm deep another twenty thousand fragments of metal pieces hidden in the soil up to 20 cm deep. Using several drills, they confirmed that near the location of every small metal fragment there were on average another six non-metal fragments. Some metal fragments were exposed to high temperature. The large number of small debris and characteristics of the debris are typical to explosion.56 The Polish team was limited in its search only to the area of airplane’s contact with the ground. A Russian team that prepared a crash scene report based on the inspection conducted on the day of the crash covered the entire area of debris starting several hundred meters before the contact with the ground. This report describes many fragments located before the contact with the ground, including fragments located before a birch tree that supposed to cause the crash. The evident disintegration of the airplane before the contact with the birch tree, several hundred meters before the first contact with the ground, was never addressed or explained. Only larges parts were recovered by the Russian team. The rest was either covered up or picked up by the public.
 Photo (above) Map of debris found on the main crash site reconstructed from the Polish Archeologists Report. Source: Smolensk Report 2013, Visualization by K. Nowaczyk.
52 See: “Smoleńsk - Niszczenie Polskiego Samolotu” Misja Specjalna, TVP1, October 2010. http://bit.ly/1h3xpze; (retrieved March 19, 2014). Breaking windows is of added significance because in searching for evidence of explosion glass from windows preserves the residue from explosives and information on pressure force to which the glass was subjected during the incident.
53 Jacek F. Gieras, “Evaluation, Investigation Techniques and Possibility of Malfunction of Electric System of Tu-154M,” Materiały Konferencyjne, Konferencja Smoleńska October 22, 2012, Komitet Organizacyjny Konferencji Smoleńskiej, Warszawa, 2013, p.55. http://bit.ly/1gEh9st (retrieved March 17, 2014).
54 „Nowe Zdjęcia Wraku Tupolewa” 10 kwietnia 2012, Fakt.pl; http://bit.ly/1gEhiMy
55 „Wycieczki znajdują na miejscu katastrofy rzeczy ofiar,” TVN24, May 5, 2010. http://bit.ly/1gEhb3Q
56 G. Szuladziński, Raport 456: „Niektóre Aspekty Konstrukcyjno-techniczne Smoleńskiej Katastrofy,” Analytical Service Pty Ltd, May 2012; retrieved on March 14, 2014 at: http://bit.ly/1gEhf3v