Government committee investigating Smolensk crash ignored findings of US lab, report finds

The government committee investigating the 2010 Smoleńsk plane crash – in which President Lech Kaczyński and dozens of other high-ranking officials were killed – deliberately ignored or misrepresented findings that it had commissioned from a US laboratory, according to a new report.

An investigation by private news station TVN24 found that the lab’s research – which cost Polish taxpayers 8 million zloty ($1.73 million) – was downplayed because it contradicted claims by the current ruling party – led by Lech Kaczyński’s identical twin Jarosław – that the crash was caused deliberately.

Opposition leader Donald Tusk, who was a prime minister at the time of the crash, has called for the head of the commitee, former defence minister Antoni Macierewicz, to be jailed. Macierewicz, however, has dismissed the findings of TVN – a station often critical of the government – as “lies” promoting a “Russian” narrative.

On Monday, TVN published findings by the US National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) which showed a simulation of what the damage to an aircraft would look like if it collided with trees.

The damage from the simulation matches the damage visible in photographs from the Smolensk crash site, both on the wing and cockpit of the aircraft, and the damage to the trees that were on the flight path of the plane, reports TVN.

That would confirm the findings of earlier Polish and Russian investigations into the tragedy, which found it had been caused by pilot error. However, it contradicts claims by Macierewicz that the crash was actually the result of explosions on board the plane.

His committee has long stated that the incident could not have been caused by the plane crashing into trees because it was flying higher than the tree line.

In a statement responding to TVN24’s findings, Macierewicz’s committee wrote that the damage shown in the simulation “is fundamentally different from the damage to the plane on the wreckage”.

“Simulation of the wing’s impact on the birch was performed by the [Polish state] Military University of Technology in three variants based on the NIAR model and clearly shows that the wing is not cut by the birch [tree],” said the statement, which was signed by Macierewicz and carried by the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“The allegations and pseudo-arguments presented by TVN are false and present the Russian point of view, misleading Polish public opinion,” it added. “The committee, contrary to the lies of TVN, has made available all materials and expert opinions that were crucial to the case…[including] the NIAR simulations.”

In its investigation, TVN also claimed to have found that Macierewicz’s committee manipulated sounds from the plane’s black boxes and other recordings in order to support the idea of an explosion causing the crash rather than hitting trees.

In its statement, however, Macierewicz’s committee rejected that claim as “false”. In fact, “it was TVN that manipulated by shifting the audio recording presented by the committee”, analysis of which shows a sound spectrum similar to those of pentrite and hexogen explosions.

Opposition figures, however, have seized on TVN’s report to argue that the findings are further evidence of how the ruling party has manipulated evidence for political reasons in order to support its conspiracy theories that Russia – perhaps with Tusk’s knowledge – caused the crash.

“Everyone who questioned the [official] report of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission should today feel ashamed,” tweeted Tusk. “And Macierewicz should be in jail.”

Main image credit: Maciek Jazwiecki / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

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