Friday 21 September 2018

Plane's black box found amid bodies after mystery crash

Emergency teams work at the scene of the An-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40km from the Domodedovo airport, Russia. Photo: AP
Emergency teams work at the scene of the An-148 plane crash in Stepanovskoye village, about 40km from the Domodedovo airport, Russia. Photo: AP

Alec Luhn

Workers are continuing to gather human remains and to search for answers at the site of the plane crash outside Moscow, killing all 71 people on board.

The emergencies ministry said it had found more than 200 body parts. It will take a week to fully scour the 30 hectares of snowy fields and forests over which debris and human remains were scattered, it said.

The authorities found the black box voice recorder yesterday morning, hours after discovering the flight data recorder, raising hopes of more clues about the plane's sudden demise on Sunday.

The An-148 aircraft was heading toward Orsk in the Orenburg region when it plummeted 6,000 feet to the ground without issuing a distress call four minutes after takeoff. A CCTV camera close by filmed a fireball near the ground followed by clouds of thick smoke.

Russia's investigative committee said yesterday it was examining the "activities of the airline, the technical condition of the airplane, the pilots' level of professional training".

It said that the airliner had not caught fire nor broken up when it started to go down, and the "explosion occurred after the plane fell", suggesting that suspicions of a terrorist attack were baseless.

A Saratov Airlines said yesterday it had temporarily stopped operating its An-148 planes, of which it had six, while the investigation continued. The airliner that crashed was built in 2010 and had made only 8,348 flights of its expected lifespan of 40,000.

Russia was the most dangerous country for flying in 2011, the year when a professional ice hockey team from Yaroslavl died in a plane crash, among other air tragedies.

Experts have complained of overworked pilots and called for better regulation of small airlines that have fewer personnel to maintain planes and may be tempted to cut corners.

After the 2011 Yaroslavl crash, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for a drastic reduction in the number of airlines, but many small carriers continue to fly.

In December 2016, 64 members of the Red Army choir, well-known humanitarian Elizaveta Glinka and 27 others were killed when a defence ministry airliner crashed into the Black Sea on its way to new year's festivities in Syria.

Answers were few and far between. President Vladimir Putin has ordered a commission to look into the crash.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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