The plane crash that killed Poland’s president and more than 90 other people was not an accident—at least for a little while.
A Polish newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, reported that traces of explosives were found in the plane’s wreckage, including enough evidence of TNT and nitroglycerine on 30 seats to jolt a detection device “off the scale.”
The claim provoked a public uproar as well as condemnation from the Polish government, whose official inquiry concluded the accident was just that and that no foul play was involved.
Shortly after publishing its story, the newspaper issued a partial retraction that said the findings of explosive residues were not as definitive as it had initially reported. Soil, perfume or everyday objects are no different than TNT in how they would cause the explosives detectors to respond, professed the newspaper. Another theory it offered is that the equipment may have sniffed out some old World War II bombs and shell casings that had been lying around the area for over six decades.
The plane carrying President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others crashed in 2010 on approach to Russia’s Smolensk North Airport, which was shrouded in a thick fog.
Conspiracy theories surrounded the accident even before the controversial story. A flight engineer, Remigiusz Mus, who flew into the airport before the crash, claimed Russian air traffic controllers allowed his plane to descend to a low altitude before landing, which contradicted an official investigation by the government.
Mus was scheduled to testify before a parliamentary investigation. But his body was found over the weekend hanged in his house in Warsaw, presumably a suicide.
Antoni Macierewicz, head of the parliamentary commission investigating the case, urged that the only other surviving witness, Artur Wosztyl, be placed in protective custody.
Another bizarre tragedy occurred in January 2012, when a Polish prosecutor working on the case inexplicably shot himself in the head during a press briefing.