Russian Plane Crashes Near Moscow, Killing 71 on Board


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Deadly Plane Crash Near Moscow

A Russian plane carrying 71 people crashed shortly after takeoff in the Moscow region on Sunday afternoon, killing all on board.


By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 11, 2018.


Photo by Reuters.

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MOSCOW — A Russian plane carrying 71 people crashed near Moscow shortly after takeoff on Sunday afternoon, killing all on board.

Flight 703, operated by the Russian regional carrier Saratov Airlines, was carrying 65 passengers and six crew members. The plane went down near the village of Stepanovskoe, about 50 miles southeast of Moscow in the Ramenskoye District, according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.

There were no survivors, Moscow’s regional transportation prosecutor-general confirmed. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

The Russian aviation authority, Rosaviatsia, said the flight departed at 2:21 p.m. from Domodedovo Airport. The Antonov AN-148, a small regional jet, was headed to the city of Orsk in the Orenburg region, about 1,000 miles southeast of Moscow, near the border with Kazakhstan.

“Several minutes after takeoff, radio connection with the crew disappeared, the plane’s mark disappeared from radars,” the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

FlightRadar24, an online site that tracks real-time flight information, shows the plane losing altitude just six minutes after takeoff. It reached 6,400 feet before dropping to 5,800 feet, rising again briefly and falling sharply — all within one minute.

The Emergency Situations Ministry posted the names of the passengers and crew members online Sunday afternoon, showing that at least three children were on board the plane. A spokeswoman for the Orsk city administration, Yelena Abramova, told Interfax that one of the passengers was a Swiss citizen.

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Emergency services crews at the site of the crash. Fragments of the plane and many bodies were discovered near Stepanovskoe, Russia, Tass reported.

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Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Fragments of the plane and many bodies were discovered near Stepanovskoe, the official news agency Tass reported, citing a spokesman for the Emergency Services Ministry.

“The snow is deep, we need heavy-duty equipment,” Andrei Kulakov, head of the Ramenskoye District, said in an interview broadcast by the news channel Rossiya 24.

Video broadcast from the site showed safety workers slogging through snowy fields scattered with low shrubs to try to reach the crash site and a piece of the plane burrowed into the snow. The news agency RIA Novosti later reported that one flight recorder had been found.

Footage from the Orsk airport showed Russians pacing and wailing as news of the crash spread.

Outdated equipment and a lack of government oversight plagued Russian aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, and there were frequent crashes. But in recent years, the industry’s safety record has improved markedly as major airlines have invested in fleets of Western airplanes.

The most recent devastating crash occurred on Dec. 25, 2016, when a Tupulov TU-154 operated by the Ministry of Defense and headed for Syria plunged into the Black Sea moments after taking off from the southern resort of Sochi. All 92 people on board died, including many members of a military choir traveling to Syria to entertain the troops.

In March 2016, all 62 people on board a FlyDubai 737 died when it crashed on landing at Rostov-on-Don.

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The third most recent aviation disaster was attributed to a terrorist act. In October 2015, a Russian charter flight ferrying 224 passengers and crew members to St. Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, crashed soon after taking off, killing everyone on board.

Egypt later acknowledged that terrorists had most likely brought down the plane.

Saratov Airlines has a fleet of 12 airplanes, five AN-148 aircraft among them. They were built by Antonov Enterprise, a Ukrainian company. One crashed in 2011 during a training flight, when the crew exceeded its maximum speed.

A government watchdog agency cited Saratov Airlines for safety concerns in December, but its report focused on the storage of flammable materials on the ground, not on its airplanes.

The plane that went down on Sunday, built in 2010, was initially part of the fleet of Rossiya airline, but it was in storage for two years before being leased to Saratov a year ago.

A representative of the airline told Interfax that the plane had been checked before departure and no technical malfunction was found. The plane also made flights from Moscow to Penza and Saratov on Sunday before the crash.

President Vladimir V. Putin expressed his condolences, and the federal transportation agency and the prosecutor’s office in the carrier’s home region opened investigations into the cause of the crash.

“The investigators will check all possible versions of the plane crash, including weather conditions, human factor, technical standing of the airplane and other possible options,” the Investigative Committee, Russia’s equivalent of the F.B.I., said in a statement.

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