Igor Kostin, a Ukrainian photographer who took one of the first pictures of the ravaged Chernobyl nuclear plant after it exploded in 1986, has died. He was 78.

His wife, Alla Kostin, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that her husband died the day before in an automobile accident on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Within hours of the Chernobyl explosion on April 26, 1986, Kostin and two other photographers flew over the nuclear power plant in a helicopter. The high radiation ruined all of his pictures except for one, and that shot of the destroyed reactor remains one of the defining images of the disaster.

In the following months and years, Kostin repeatedly returned to the contaminated zone to document the cleanup efforts.