How Poland Coped When Most of Government Was Killed in Plane Crash: Part 5

Poland lost its President Lech Kaczynski and many of its top officials in a plane crash on April 10, 2010.
7:56 | 11/24/16

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Transcript for How Poland Coped When Most of Government Was Killed in Plane Crash: Part 5
Reporter: Well, a true designated survivor disaster has never happened here in America, it has happened elsewhere, just a few year's ago. Much of Poland's entire government was wiped out in a plane crash. So, how did that country survive? And the controversy that lasts to this day. It was a quiet Saturday morning in Warsaw, when president lech Kaczynski boarded Poland's equivalent of air force one and took off. That's the plane there, captured on amateur video, as it departs for a special trip with 96 very special passengers. It has the president, it has what we would call the joint chiefs of staff, it has several secretaries from cabinet members. Well, I knew 80% of the people onboard. They were leaving Warsaw, they took off to fly into Russia to a little place called smolensk. Reporter: It's a trip, important politically, and emotionally to the nearby site of the notorious katyn massacre. 22,000 Polish officers slaughtered by the soviet army during World War II. And they were going there to commemorate this very black event that hangs heavy within the Polish psyche. Reporter: Dense fog near the airstrip endangers the flight. The ceilings were so low, the visibility was so low, it made it almost impossible for this airplane to land. But in the end, the pilots allowed the plane to go too low, and they hit a tree. Reporter: The plane crashed just short of the airport. And amidst the smoldering wreckage, there were no survivors. Foreign minister radek Sikorski had been invited to go, but could not. He's having breakfast with his mother when his phone rings. And I get a call that there was something wrong with the presidential plane. Reporter: Soon, the news is on television, and the anchors are having trouble keeping it together. Deputy speaker of the house jerzy szmajdzinski was on the plane. His wife malgorzata finds out he's dead from those television reports. Translator: It's unimaginable shock. I shouted to my daughter, who was still asleep. She ran downstairs. We both collapsed with grief. I can't describe it anymore. Reporter: At the crash site and back in Warsaw, the scene is chaotic. The prime minister called an emergency session of the cabinet. Reporter: Sikorski and most of the surviving members of the government race to their offices to grapple with the unprecedented crisis. As the world reels from the news. Death of a president. A country in mourning tonight. Reporter: Within days, the flag-draped coffins return. It was a terrible shock. The Polish government was essentially dissolved. It was no longer. Reporter: And yet, through the agony and grief, the young democracy remains stable. Trains keep running. The atms keep working. More importantly, the constitution keeps working. The country needed reassurance that the government was continuing, and that we will come through this. Reporter: The line of succession is clear and unbroken. In accordance with the law, the head of parliament, bronisaw Komorowski, assumes the office of the president. Even though he's from the opposition party, nobody objects. Translator: Emotionally, it was hard. However, from the political point of view, the transition was actually quite smooth. So, in that sense, we were torn between our emotions and our sense of duty. Reporter: But the moment of unity doesn't last. In fact, the nation begins to fracture soon after people start asking, just how did the plane crash after all? Well, we know what happened, because we have the tape from the black boxes, on which you can hear the warnings of the system that there is terrain ahead, and pull up. Terrain ahead. Pull up, pull up. Reporter: Crucially, ganyard says the pilots were under immense pressure to land the plane, regardless of the delegation could make it to its all-important photo op. They had somebody come into the cockpit and tell them, the president will go crazy if we don't land here. So, this crew is under incredible pressure to land the airplane, even though they knew that it was unsafe and they had very little chance of doing so safely. It was the worst organization you can imagine. Of course. But it was only the decision of our president. He wanted to come, and he came. And he -- and he died. Reporter: The implied negligence and recklessness stains the memory of the dead president, a stain the leader of his law and justice party, who happens to be his twin brother, is determined to remove. How? By borrowing a page from the "Designated survivor" script. With all due respect, sir, we need an enemy. And soon. Reporter: The enemy in Poland isn't hard to find. It's always been there. It's Russia. Russian intelligence knew it was a plot and hostile act against the Republican of Poland. Reporter: At the offices of the conservative paper gazeta polska, these journalists are devoted to the theory that the smolensk tragedy was an act of terrorism, an assassination devised by Vladimir Putin to rid himself of a regional rival. You don't remember the Russian common practice of murdering their political opponents? And Kaczynski was such a great opponent to Putin. Reporter: Their proof? Everything from this video of Russian responders tampering with the wreckage. Questions about missing debris, disputes about the ability of a single tree to bring a large plane down, and claims that the Russians tampered with the cockpit voice recordings. Scientific researchers, documentaries, even a recent movie are devoted to the theory. And now, we have one-third of the Polish people still believe that this airplane was either an association or a terr assassination or a terrorist attack. Reporter: Every month, mourners throng Warsaw's largest cathedral to commemorate the tragedy. The service is followed by a political rally for the law and justice party. The law and justice party won the 2015 elections. The new defense minister is now heading a new commission to investigate the case. But nobody has yet produced a consistent story alternative to the official report that would make the evidence fit into a logical sequence of events. So, it's being used in a fairly cynical way to keep the party in power in power. Reporter: Today, many of the dead are buried here, in Warsaw's military cemetery. But just last week, the new government started exhuming their bodies, looking for forensic evidence of a bomb or other treachery. They will never be forgotten, but Before fibromyalgia,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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