Vitaly Kaloyev

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This name uses Eastern Slavic naming customs; the patronymic is Konstantinovich and the family name is Kaloyev.
Vitaly Kaloyev
Born (1956-01-15) 15 January 1956 (age 60)
Nationality Russian

Vitaly Konstantinovich Kaloyev (Russian: Виталий Константинович Калоев, born 15 January 1956) is an architect and deputy minister of housing from Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, Russia. His family died aboard Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937, which collided with DHL Flight 611 over Überlingen, Germany on 1 July 2002. Peter Nielsen, an air traffic controller handling traffic when the collision occurred, was freed from any responsibility in the following inquest and he retired from further air traffic work afterwards. However, Kaloyev held Nielsen responsible, and in 2004 he travelled to the Swiss town of Kloten and stabbed him to death.

Kaloyev was released from prison in November 2007 and shortly after was appointed deputy minister of construction of North Ossetia–Alania.

Murder of Peter Nielsen and aftermath[edit]

Skyguide memorial to the aviation accident and murder of Peter Nielsen.

Peter Nielsen was stabbed to death in front of his home in Kloten,[1] near Zürich, on 24 February 2004.[2] Police arrested an Ossetian man, Vitaly Kaloyev, an architect working in Barcelona, within a few days. Kaloyev's family — his wife Svetlana Kaloyeva (Светлана Калоева), and two children, 10-year-old Konstantin Kaloyev (Константин Калоев) and 4-year-old Diana Kaloyeva (Диана Калоева) — had died on Flight 2937 two years earlier. Yuri Kaloyev, the brother of Vitaly Kaloyev, reported that the man suffered a nervous breakdown following the loss of his entire family, especially since he was one of the first relatives to arrive at the crash site.[3] Vitaly Kaloyev participated in the search for the bodies and located a broken pearl necklace owned by his daughter, Diana. He also found her body, which was intact, trees having broken her fall. Her mother and brother fell 36,000 feet; Svetlana's body landed in a corn field, and Konstantin's body hit asphalt in front of an Überlingen bus shelter.[4][5]

Returning to his home in North Ossetian city of Vladikavkaz,[5] Kaloyev spent the first year after the accident lingering at the graves of his family and building a shrine to them in his home. At the memorial service for the first anniversary of the tragedy he asked the head of Skyguide about the possibility of meeting the controller who had been responsible for the disaster, but received no response. Kaloyev then hired a Moscow private investigator to find Nielsen's address outside Zürich, before travelling to the former air traffic controller's home in Kloten (Nielsen had resigned from his job after the accident). After a short argument on Nielsen's doorstep Kaloyev stabbed him several times, and Nielsen died of his injuries a few minutes later in the presence of his wife and three children. Investigators found Kaloyev in his hotel room at a Kloten Welcome Inn, apparently in shock.[6] He said he had no memory of what he had done and was taken to a mental hospital, where he was evaluated to determine if he was fit to stand trial.

Answering questions from the judge, Kaloyev said the plane crash above Lake Constance had ended his life. He said his children were the youngest on board Flight 2937, so there was no need for him to identify the bodies. Kaloyev said he was crushed by the loss of his family: "I have been living in the cemetery for almost two years, sitting behind their graves," he said.

Kaloyev presented a document received from a law firm in Hamburg dated 11 November 2003. It was an amicable agreement in which Skyguide offered him 60,000 Swiss francs for the death of his wife and 50,000 francs for the death of each of his two children. In return, Skyguide asked Kaloyev to decline any claims to the company. The document infuriated the man: he decided to meet the company director Alan Rossier and Nielsen in person.

"Apparently he did not expect that he would have to answer for the results of his work," Kaloyev said. "He murmured something to me. Then I showed him some pictures of my children and said: 'They were my children. What would you feel if you saw your children in coffins?' I was infuriated about Skyguide's initiative to haggle over my dead children."

Kaloyev said he wanted Nielsen to apologize to him for the death of his family. "He hit me on the hand, when I was holding the envelope with the photographs of my children. I only remember that I had a very disturbing feeling, as if the bodies of my children were turning over in their graves," he said. He added that he did not remember what he did afterwards. He offered no explanation of why he brought the murder weapon with him on a peaceful errand.

The region where Kaloyev came from has a tradition of blood feuds which are settled in a manner parallel to the legal system.[7] On 26 October 2005, Kaloyev was convicted of murder and sentenced to eight years in prison.[8] In 2007, he was paroled by the court, but the prosecution appealed the decision.[9] On 23 August 2007, the court accepted the appeal, so that Kaloyev remained in prison.[10] On 8 November 2007, Kaloyev was released from prison, because his mental condition was not sufficiently considered in the initial sentence.[11] After his release Kaloyev returned to Ossetia. He was enthusiastically met by a crowd in the airport[12] and very soon appointed to deputy minister.[13] The positive reaction and appointment in Russia was met with a negative reception in Switzerland.[7]

The Swiss government asked Kaloyev to repay the costs of his incarceration, about US$157,000. Kaloyev has refused to do so. When Kaloyev travelled to Germany to attend the 10th anniversary memorial, he was detained by German authorities, saying that he was on a Swiss watch list. Russian consular authorities protested the man's detainment. The Germans released Kaloyev after Russian diplomats agreed to accompany him.[7]

Cultural references[edit]

American rock band Delta Spirit recorded the song Ballad of Vitaly, featured as the closing track on their 2010 album History from Below (album), chronicling Kaloyev's story.

German futurepop band Edge of Dawn alludes to Kaloyev's story and mentions his name in the song "The Flight (Lux)", which appears on their 2005 EP The Flight (Lux) and later their full-length 2007 album Enjoy the Fall.

The upcoming American film 478 is based on the Überlingen mid-air collision with Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying a character largely based on Kaloyev.[14]


  1. ^ "Swiss air crash controller killed". CNN. 25 February 2004. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  2. ^ "Skyguide — information regarding the air accident". Retrieved 18 January 2007. 
  3. ^ "Nothing left to lose: grief-crazed murder suspect haunted by family's air deaths," The Guardian Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  4. ^ "Father killed air traffic chief over fatal crash," Times Online Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Deadly Crossroads," Mayday
  6. ^ "Peter Nielsen stabbed to death," The Age February 29, 2004. May 6, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Kramer, Andrew E."Plane Crash Remembered; One Mourner Not Welcome." The New York Times. 30 June 2012. Retrieved on 5 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Father jailed for air traffic murder". The Scotsman. Retrieved 18 October 2007. 
  9. ^ "Kaloyev to be released". (in Russian). Retrieved 14 November 2007. 
  10. ^ "Швейцарский суд отменил досрочное освобождение Виталия Калоева" [Swiss court overturned the early release of Vitaly Kaloyev]. (in Russian). Retrieved 14 November 2007. 
  11. ^ "Der Russe Kalojew kommt frei (German)". NZZ. Retrieved 14 November 2007. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Man, who killed air traffic controller, becomes deputy construction and architecture minister, 18 January 2008,, Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  14. ^ Da Costa, Diego (June 24, 2015). "Arnold Schwarzenegger se convertirá en un padre vengativo en el drama '478' (Arnold Schwarzenegger will become a vengeful father in the drama '478')". Retrieved June 23, 2015. 

External links[edit]