Scores of Polish Civic, Religious, Military, and Government Leaders, Including President Lech Kaczyński, Die in Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 Crash
On 10 April 2010, a Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft crashed near Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 passengers and crew.
Those killed included the Poland's President Lech Kaczyński and his wife; the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and other senior military officers; the President of the National Bank; the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; government officers, vice-speakers and members of parliament; and senior members of clergy. They were en route from Warsaw to attend an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The site of the massacre is approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) west of Smolensk.
The cause of the crash is under investigation. According to preliminary reports, the pilot attempted to land at Smolensk Airbase in fog which reduced visibility to about 500 m, ignoring the advice of the ground control to divert to a safer airport in Vitebsk, Minsk or Moscow. On the final approach the plane was too low, struck some trees in the fog, failed to regain control and fell to the ground 200 metres (660 ft) from the airfield, breaking into pieces across the wooded area.
"There is going to be a huge gap in public life in Poland," said resident Magdalena Hendrysiak. "The most important people are dead."
Russian officials said that 97 people were killed when the plane carrying Kaczynski crashed as it was trying to land at an airport near the city of Smolensk.
Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski took over as acting president and declared it "a time for national mourning."