Russian airliner crashes near Moscow after takeoff; 71 dead

World Today

RUSSIA-PLANE-CRASH An aerial view shows a crater at the site of plane crash in Ramensky district, on the outskirts of Moscow on February 11, 2018. A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed near Moscow on February 11, 2018, minutes after taking off, killing everyone on board in one of the country’s worst ever aviation disasters. / AFP PHOTO / Dmitry SEREBRYAKOV

A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed Sunday near Moscow, killing everyone aboard shortly after the jet took off from one of the city’s airports.

The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport en route to Orsk, a city some 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Russian authorities said they have found the flight recorder.

CGTN’s Jessica King reports from Moscow.
Follow Jessica King on Twitter @JessLSKing

The debris of the AN-148 aircraft was scattered for a radius of more than a kilometre from the crash site, in an area of heavy snow. Emergency services were seen using snowmobiles and helicopters to get better access to the scene.

The government said on Sunday that the remains of two bodies had been found but that victims may need to be identified using DNA tests.

The flight had left Domodedovo Airport, in the Russian capital, just minutes before it disappeared from radar screens and plummeted to the ground.

It was a domestic flight, operated by Saratov Airlines, to the city of Orsk in the Orenburg region, about 900 miles (1,500 km) southeast of Moscow.

Russia’s Emergency Ministry published the names of the 65 passengers and 6 crew it believes were on board, and confirmed that all are feared dead.

President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to the family and friends of those who died, and ordered the government to set up a special commission to investigate the cause of the crash.

Investigators gave a number of possible causes including human error, the plane’s technical condition and the weather conditions.

Moscow has experienced heavy snowfall in recent days including record snowfall the previous weekend. There were temperatures of around -5 degrees celsius at the time of the crash.

State news agency Tass said the plane, which had been flying since 2010, was out of service for two years because of a shortage of parts.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said all possible causes were being explored.

Putin put off a planned trip to Sochi to monitor the investigation. Putin was to meet Monday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the Black Sea resort, where the president has an official residence.

Instead, Abbas will meet with Putin in Moscow in the latter part of Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

The An-148 was developed by Ukraine’s Antonov company in the early 2000s and manufactured in both Ukraine and Russia.

Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148-100B, registered RA-61704

6W703 was operated by a Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148-100B, registered RA-61704. The aircraft was originally delivery in 2010 to Rossiya Airlines and began operation with Saratov in February of 2017. PHOTO/ www.flightradar24.com

The plane that crashed was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot. It was put into storage from 2015 to 2017 because of the parts shortage. Tass reported that the aircraft re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017.

Shabby equipment and poor supervision plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved in recent years.

The last large-scale crash in Russia occurred on Dec. 25, 2016, when a Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry on its way to Syria crashed into the Black Sea minutes after takeoff from the southern Russian city of Sochi. All 92 people on board were killed.

In March 2016, a Boeing 737-800 flown by FlyDubai crashed while landing at Rostov-on-Don, killing all 62 people aboard.

An onboard bomb destroyed a Russian Metrojet airliner in October 2015 soon after it took off from Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 224 people.

Story by The Associated Press with additional information from CGTN.