Tuesday 18 September 2018

71 die as 'burning' Russian plane 'falls out of the sky'

An ariel view in the Ramensky district on the outskirts of Moscow shows Russian emergency vehicles arriving near to the site of the airplane crash. Photo: Dmitry Serebryakovdmitry/Getty
An ariel view in the Ramensky district on the outskirts of Moscow shows Russian emergency vehicles arriving near to the site of the airplane crash. Photo: Dmitry Serebryakovdmitry/Getty

Alec Luhn in Moscow

All 71 people aboard a Russian plane were killed yesterday after it crashed on the outskirts of Moscow within four minutes of taking off.

All 71 people aboard a Russian plane were killed yesterday after it crashed on the outskirts of Moscow within four minutes of taking off.

The Saratov Airlines An-148 jet was en route to the city of Orsk when it vanished from radar and, according to witnesses, burst into flames before plunging into a field. It was carrying 65 passengers.

"The plane crashed near the village of Argunovo. Passengers as well as the crew could hardly survive," a Russian emergency services source said.

Witnesses in Argunovo said they saw a burning plane falling from the sky, while video footage obtained by Russian media showed plane debris scattered across a snow-covered field.

An elderly woman near the crash site told Rossiya 24, the state television channel, that she had heard a "very loud" boom when the plane went down. "I called the heating plant, I thought the heating plant had blown up," she said.

A part of the Saratov Airlines Antonov AN-148 plane that came down is seen at the scene of the crash outside Moscow, Russia. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
A part of the Saratov Airlines Antonov AN-148 plane that came down is seen at the scene of the crash outside Moscow, Russia. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

Flight records showed that four minutes after take-off, the plane suddenly plunged to the ground from a height of 6,000ft.

Russian news agencies quoted official sources saying that no one had survived the crash.

A technical fault is the leading suspected cause of the crash, with investigators analysing the plane's black box for clues. According to 'Moskovsky Komsomolets', a Russian newspaper, an inspection of the plane in February found that its gear oil had not been changed and that a filter not been cleaned as regularly as it should have been.

The temperature was 23F (-5C) with light snow near Domodedovo airport yesterday afternoon, which is not extreme or challenging weather by Russian standards for February.

A meteorologist told Rossiya 24 that there had not been particularly strong or suddenly changing winds.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, expressed "deep condolences to all those who lost family and loved ones in this catastrophe", Dmitry Peskov, his spokesman, told Tass, the state news agency.

Mr Putin also ordered the government to create a special commission to look into the causes of the crash.

Alexander Bastrykin, the investigative committee head, personally went to the crash site, and the transport oversight agency said it would carry out a safety audit of Saratov Airlines.

The ill-fated An-148 was built in Voronezh in 2010.

The emergencies ministry told Tass that "fragments of the An-148 plane and several bodies" had been found near the village of Stepanovskoye.

Andrei Odintsov, the mayor of Orsk, told Rossiya 24 that all those on the plane were residents of the Orenburg region and said "calls are starting to come in from relatives".

"The main task for us is to check the passenger list. Today we have the names but we need to establish their addresses and relatives," he said.

A Rossiya 24 correspondent at the Orsk airport said people were coming to check lists of people killed.

"People are still arriving here and trying to find out if their loved ones or friends were among the dead," she said. Russia was the deadliest country for air travel in 2011, when a number of high-profile crashes occurred, including one that killed most members of a professional hockey team from Yaroslavl.

In December 2016, a military plane carrying Russia's Red Army Choir went down after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, killing all 92 people on board. Pilot error was blamed.

Industry experts have called for better regulation of small airlines that lack the resources to conduct maintenance that larger airlines enjoy.

Russian investigators said the crew of the airliner that crashed yesterday did not report any technical problems.

Svetlana Petrenko, a spokesman for the investigative committee, said: "It has been found that no reports about technical malfunctions were received from the plane's crew." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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