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Death toll in Ukraine military plane crash climbs to 26, lone survivor praised as hero

Volodymyr Zelensky 2019 (The Presidential Administration of Ukraine/WikiCommons)

The number of people killed after a Ukraine military plane crashed near the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Friday has climbed to 26.

Searchers combing the crash site discovered another three bodies on Saturday. The grim tally climbed a second time the same day after it was announced one of the two surviving cadets succumbed to his extensive burn injuries and died at an area hospital.

A total of 20 military cadets and seven crew members were aboard the Antonov AN-26 transport plane when it crashed during a training flight on Friday. The aircraft burst into flames upon landing near a highway just more than a mile from the Chuguiv military air base.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday praised the only survivor during an appearance not far from where the aircraft went down.

“Ukraine has lost 26 worthy sons,” Zelensky said on Facebook, referring to the cadets and officers of the Kharkiv National Air Force University.

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“It is difficult to find words to express the pain of this loss. It’s hard to find the necessary phrases to comfort parents, wives and children of the dead warriors.”

Zelensky also declared Saturday a day of mourning to honor the lives lost while also vowing a speedy investigation to uncover the cause of the deadly crash.

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© 2020 New York Daily News