During an air show in Ukraine, a fighter jet crashes into a crowd of spectators on this day in 2002, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds more. This was the worst air-show accident to that date.
Thousands of spectators, including many children, were enjoying themselves on a summer Saturday afternoon at the Skniliv Airfield in Lviv. They came to mark the 60th anniversary of the formation of a local unit of the Ukrainian air force. A Russian Sukhoi SU-27 jet was performing a complicated maneuver just above the ground when it nicked a plane on the tarmac. The jet somersaulted and crashed directly into the crowd. The fiery explosion created a horrific scene. The two pilots, however, managed to eject themselves from the plane before the crash and survived with minor injuries.
The president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, immediately fired the head of the air force, began an investigation into the incident and vowed to end all future air shows. Millions of dollars were set aside to assist the victims and their families. The investigation quickly revealed that the pilots were attempting risky maneuvers that had never before been tried. In addition, there were no safety precautions in place to help the pilots direct the planes away from the crowd below in the event of an emergency.
The previous worst air-show disaster was at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, where three Italian jets collided and one crashed into the crowd. Seventy people were killed in that disaster.