Exclusive: man from city of Vladimir was silent for 50 years about how he found the bodies on Dyatlov pass
Helicopter pilot V.V. Potyazhenko told his version of the events of the terrible night of 1959
Author: Aleksey Kandalov
Published in PROГОРОД on 12 Feb 2014
Recently, relatives of the hikers that died on "Dyatlov Pass" appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Sverdlovsk Region. Close family members made a request to open a new investigation. As they consider, it is impossible to draw an unequivocal conclusion about the causes of death for the whole group. Today our compatriot Victor Potyazhenko called the Pro Gorod editorial office. He said that he was living witness to the events on Mount Otorten. According to him, there are a lot of inaccuracies and inventions in documentaries about what happened. He wants to tell everything he knows about the events that occurred 55 years ago.
The participant in those events met us at home. As it turned out, his wife - Margarita Potyazhenko, is also directly related to the incident. She was a radio operator when it all happened. Half a century has passed, but the events of that time are still being discussed by experts, various theories are being circulated. Pensioners confessed: until the last moment they had not told anyone about what they knew about the terrible event.
The mysterious story happened in February 1959. On the slopes of the mountain, the name of which, translated from the language of the Mansi, sounds like “Don't go there”, under unexplained circumstances, a group of tourists died. Search teams who found them and forensic medical experts were surprised by what they saw there ...
How it all began
- At that time I served in a squadron in the Northern Urals - I was a flight commander, Victor Potyazhenko recalls. - On the eve of February 23, we received an order: tomorrow you will go on the AN-2, Yak-12 aircraft, the Mi-4 helicopter to the city of Ivdel. (At that time, however, as now, it was the center for serving sentences of prisoners). They also added: Commander Gorlak, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force in the Urals District, will fly with you. Unfortunately, I have forgotten his name already. We prepared the planes, and flew to a given point. Arrived, landed on a small airfield. I look around: there is militia everywhere. Everybody running around, fussing. Well, I think - maybe someone escaped from prisoners, so they are looking for them now.
Later it turned out that on the night of February 1 and 2 a group of Sverdlovsk students did not get back. The students went hiking, which was timed to the XXI Congress of the CPSU. For 16 days, the participants in the trek were to ski no less than 350 km along the north of the Sverdlovsk region and make the ascent to the North Ural mountains Otorten and Oyko-Chakur. At some pint, they did not reach the final destination of their route. From the latest reports, the coordinates of the place of possible overnight stay were known. As it became clear, the military was sent to search for them.
- They gave me an order to fly over and inspect the area from the air, the participant of events continues to recall. - Of course, there were big doubts that we would find anything from the height. It was necessary to fly 12 kilometers from Ivdel along the railway. After that, another 50 kilometers to the mountains, where, after 500-600 meters, an ominous plateau opened up.
The interviewee admitted flying was scary. Around changeable relief, alternating plateau. And above the bare, gray landscape - a thick "cap" of clouds. His first landing was in the forest, on a pre-cleared site.
- There was a dense, impassable forest. The height of some cedars reached 5 meters. I requested an area for landing - 50 to 50 meters to be cut down. The square is such that the blades don't touch the branches. That's where I had to "land". The second time I had on board the dog handlers with the dogs. This is where strange things start to happen.
About the strange events
When large service shepherd dogs were tried to be pulled out of the rotary-winged aircraft, they began to resist, to tear from the leashes.
- Search dogs rested paws on the floor. They literally pulled out of the compartment. And when the animals were outside, they lowered their ears and tails. The animals clearly expressed anxiety. They felt something. You know, when they were taken back after the searches, they fled aboard. It was probably possible to walk on them, someone might have come inadvertently - but they didn’t even snap. Although, on the first day one dog bit my spouse by the leg. Here, they were obedient, so long as they were not touched, - our interlocutor noted this interesting observation.
How was the tent found
That day, Victor was lucky to find a tent. Everything happened completely by accident. Canine went into the mountains to search. The helicopter took off, made a circle and flew towards the base. After 500 meters, the pilot saw something similar to a tent.
- It was certainly difficult to discern the outlines, the interlocutor confessed. - When I flew "home" I passed by radio: the object is located directly from the place from which we took off. There hastily sent a search party on the same evening...
Remembering the scene
And in the morning, our hero was in the scene. With the dawn, he set off with a new team to the pass. After some time, a snow-covered tent was found, with a wall cut from the inside. Everything was left inside, as if that night something made everyone run out without turning back.
- Everything was completely untouched, - he confirmed vis-a-vis. - Things lay in their places - everyone ran out in what they were. In the tent were preserved all the products, alcohol, money left. Inside was a lamp, a sheet of paper was attached with plans for the next day. Remember? There was a version that the guys were attacked by runaway convicts. But the fact that everything was untouched, suggests otherwise. And it was unlikely that those who escaped could hold out for a long time in freezing cold... We looked at everything and discussed it. And then they all went down the steep slope. In some places, it was all powdered with snow on which we saw tracks of footprints. They all led down to the valley...
Results from the search
On that day, February 26, the first victims of a mysterious incident were found.
- The body of a man lying in the snow with arms outstretched, - the memory of the pensioner draws terrible images. - The corpse is all frozen, it was icy. When we had to carry it, I happen to grab the heel. And it broke off! I tried to put it back in place, but where there. So he left it there, because the body was inconvenient to carry.
Victor's wife, Margarita Potyazhenko added: at that time there were severe frosts. My husband had to warm the helicopter for two hours in order to prepare it for a flight. The air temperature sometimes dropped to minus 52 degrees.
The conversation returned to the topic of the terrible find. Some time after the discovery of the first body, another 3 were found. They lay in a kind of lowland, near the ascent to the mountain. An experienced “flyer” remembered broken branches of fir trees, scattered sticks. So far it remains a mystery what did teh dead need them for.
- Nearby was a trace of a campfire, the snow was smoky. Means, they kindled a fire. Of course, maybe they wanted to make flooring, but why? There are a lot of questions. The prosecutor with the investigator constantly went aside to whisper, to discuss something. We decided that the bodies could have been buried by snow. They decided to search the holes with special probes, - the witness added.
They searched for the rest of the members of Dyatlov group for weeks. After several more days from the moment of the first "finds", the body of a woman was unearthed, with burnt clothes. And then, until May, they continued to search for people who were considered missing. In the middle of the month, they found 3 mutilated corpses with gouged eyes, burns, no tongue ...
What are the versions of what happened?
Victor Vasilyevich and Margarita Ivanovna Potyazhenko
There are a great many theories about what happened on that unfortunate night. Various versions have been published - from mystical, to natural phenomena. Among others: bacteriological weapons sprayed over the forest. But Potyazhenko finds this version amusing. They reacted with a smile to another version: an American spy entered the ranks of the group, and "cleaned" the witnesses.
- All this is untrue, - the spouses laugh. - Why test bacteriological weapons over a completely deserted territory! And speculation about a spy, so it is generally a fairy tale. We guess what could happen there, but we were silent all the time.
In those days, Margarita worked as a radio operator, received and transmitted urgent radiograms. She well remembers how one day during the search she heard: a rocket landed on Otorten.
- I remember those exact words, - assures our fellow countrywoman. - They said that a rocket landed in the mountains. And then came a refutation. Nothing like that happen, it just looked like it. All this, of course, was strange. Moreover, on the night of April 1 and 2 there was an inexplicable event.
What we were told about the strange event
Margaret’s husband, Victor, joined the conversation again. The man said: that night, when the search continued, a luminous object hung above the soldiers' tent.
- The lieutenant told me then, but I didn't believe it. I thought he is fooling me on the April 1st. And everyone said that a luminous "donut" hang above the tent. The attendant dozed off when the whole neighborhood lit up like during the day. He's a soldier and shouted: "Oh lads, I overslept, the sun is shining." He runs out into the street, but this thing hangs over his head, everything is glowing. Boy starts screaming, wakes everyone up... Then at three in the morning, we were looking for everyone in the surrounding forests. Everyone was very scared.
What do our interlocutors think?
The couple are sure that no one will ever tell about the true causes of the tragedy. They tend to believe in an extraterrestrial trace in the case of the death of the group. According to them: that night, something inexplicable happened to the mind of an ordinary person. They become believers on August 23, 1973. - I saw "them", although if I had said this before, I would have been taken to a psychiatric hospital. It all happened near the village of Peshino, near Izhevsk. These "guests" literally floated over the buckwheat field ... I remember their tall stature, under 3 meters. I was really scared of course.
As the hostess added later: my husband after this incident didn't come to himself for a long time. Partially he lost his memory. But most importantly, in spite of the version in the documentaries, that everyone who faced Otorten's secret died, this didn't. Our countrymen remember every day when they searched for the 9 young people.
Read the interview that followed right after the article came out →