WHEN Russian politician Vitaly Kaloyev had completed his jail term for murder in Switzerland he returned to his hometown a hero, The Sun reports.
Kaloyev, who lost his wife and two children in a devastating plane crash in 2002, had served three years in prison for butchering the man he blamed for their deaths.
His wife Svetlana, 10-year-old son Konstantin and four-year-old daughter Diana were on a flight that collided with a freight plane over the skies of Uberlingen, Germany.
The collision lead to the deaths of 71 people and most of them were Russian schoolchildren. Kaloyev’s story has been recreated in the upcoming film Aftermath that will star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Kaloyev, deputy minister of construction in North Ossetia-Alania in Russia, was one of the first to arrive in the town and found the lifeless body of his toddler daughter tangled in trees that broke her fall.
The distraught family man found his wife’s body in a corn field and Konstantin’s body in the road in front of a bus shelter. Kaloyev, from Vladikavkaz near the border with Chechnya, had just finished a two-year contract to work as a builder and architect on a project in Barcelona.
An insight into his grief came when he published a eulogy online in tribute to his son. He wrote: “(Konstantin) would have become a good, well-educated person, useful to society, were it not for this tragedy, which I cannot get over.
“I have no strength.” Kaloyev stopped working and constantly wore black as he entered a period of profound grief. He turned the family home in the Caucasian town of Vladikavkas into a shrine dedicated to his dead wife and children.
Heartbreaking photos showed toys on his children’s beds and a box of his wife’s favourite scents.Two years after the tragedy Kaloyev travelled to Switzerland to confront the man he held responsible for the killing.His target Peter Nielsen, 36, was on duty alone in the Zurich control room on the night of the Überlingen crash. He gave only 44 seconds’ warning to a Bashkirian Airlines aircraft and a DHL freight plane that they were too close.
The Russian flight from Moscow to Barcelona was carrying 60 passengers and nine crew. Out of the passengers 45 of them were children on a school trip.
The cargo aircraft was piloted by Paul Philips, from Liverpool in the UK, and was on it’s way from Bergamo, Italy, to Brussels, Belgium. It was carrying Mr Philips and his co-pilot.
Nielsen was manning two workstations at for a Swiss airspace control company while a colleague rested next door. He failed to spot the planes were going to smash into each other until they less than 60 seconds apart.
Neilsen told the passenger plane crew to descend by a 1,000ft. However a second later the crew changed course because their traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) told them to fly upwards instead.
The TCAS on the Boeing cargo plane told its pilot to descend. An investigation found that if both pilots had followed their TCAS instructions the collision would never have happened.
However Nielsen repeated his instructions to the Russian plane and the crew ignored the automated warning – causing them to descend into the path of the cargo plane.
The planes collided at a near-right angle at 34,890 feet. In the days that followed Nielsen’s failings were made public and he admitted responsibility, saying: “As a father I sense that this loss leaves a gap that will hurt.
“On the night of the accident, I was part of a network of people, computers, monitoring and transmission devices and regulations. “All these parts must work together seamlessly and without error, and they must be synchronised.
“As an air traffic controller, it is my task and duty to prevent such accidents. “So many children lost their lives and so many hopes for the future were erased.”
He was never named in the press but his initials and a photo of his flat appeared in the papers. Nielsen had a nervous break down shortly after the crash and required extensive therapy to help him through his guilt.
At a one-year anniversary memorial event distraught Kaloyev asked the head of Skyguide, which manages airspace in Europe, if he could meet the man who had been responsible for the disaster.
He decided to hire a private investigator who managed to locate Nielsen’s address as being outside Zürich. In 2004 Kayolev arrived in Neilsen’s neighbourhood with a piece of paper with his address on it.
He asked a local for directions as she pointed to him the way. Kaloyev then sat down in his garden and waited for the right time to strike. Nielsen spotted the intruder and went outside with his three children to ask him what he wanted.
His wife Mette tried to call them back when she heard a “kind of scream”. When she rushed outside she found Nielsen lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood.
A 14 inch blade was jutting out his stomach. Kayolev went on the run and was stopped at Zurich airport as he tried to leave Switzerland. He later told his trial that he wanted Nielsen to apologise for the mistake that lead to the death of his kids.
He told the court he committed the murder after he dropped some pics of his family and it felt like his children had “dropped out of their coffins”. Nielson took roughly two minutes to bleed to death as his child and wife watched on helplessly.
During his trial Kaloyev admitted he felt pity for Nielsen’s three children. Kaloyev was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2005 but was released three years later after appealing that his mental health at the time had not been considered.
He later told a reporter that: “Killing him didn’t make him feel any better.”