The flight crew on the Russian passenger jet that erupted into a fireball during an emergency landing in Moscow on Sunday is being hailed for heroic efforts to save passengers -- including one flight attendant who perished while trying to get those onboard to safety.
Russian Transport Minister Yevgeny Dietrich said Monday that emergency workers have recovered 41 bodies from the Aeroflot SSJ100 that was carrying 78 people, including five crew members, when it came down hard on the runway at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. The jet, destined for Murmansk, had turned back after takeoff.
Among the dead included, was flight attendant Maxim Moiseev, according to Dietrich.
Moiseev was in the rear of the plane as it landed and stayed inside as the aircraft became engulfed in flames, Russia's TASS News Agency reported.
"He was trying to open the rear exit door to quickly evacuate the passengers from the tail that was ablaze," an aviation source told TASS. "He didn’t succeed and started helping people to leave the plane."
TASS reported that Moiseev stayed on board trying to get people off the aircraft, and died in the fire.
Another flight attendant, Tatyana Kasatkina, told the Lenta news agency those on board had just seconds to escape the plane, and she grabbed passengers by their collars to hurl them down escape chutes.
"People starting getting out of their seats and making for the exit while the jet was still traveling at high speed," she told Lenta. "They were phoning relatives, screaming that the plane was burning and falling."
One survivor praised the plane's attendants for helping save him and others.
"It was dark and there was gas, very high temperature. They helped people out of there, helped them to descend," Dmity Khlebnikov said, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Video on Russian TV showed the plane's underside bursting into flames and spewing black smoke after making a hard landing Sunday night. Those who escaped leaped out of the plane down inflatable emergency slides and ran across the tarmac.
Most of those who died are believed to have been choked by the smoke, TASS reported.
Russia's main investigative body said Monday that both flight recorders have been recovered from the plane. Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko was also quoted by Russian news agencies as saying investigators are looking into three main possibilities behind the cause of the disaster: insufficient pilot qualifications, equipment failure and weather.
The pilot of the airliner, Denis Evdokimov, was quoted by Russian media as saying the plane was without radio communications because of a lightning strike. The plane had taken off for Murmansk in stormy weather but quickly turned back for an emergency landing, according to Sky News.
"We took off, got into a cloud, there was strong hail, and at that moment there was a pop and some kind of flash, like electricity," Kasatnika told state TV.
The plane reportedly did not jettison any fuel before the landing, as is a common procedure. It was not clear why it did not take the time to do that.
The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, was heralded when it went into service in 2011 as part of a new phase for Russia's civil aviation industry, but the jet has been troubled by concerns about defects in the horizontal stabilizers. Russia's aviation authority in 2017 ordered the inspection of all Superjets in the country because of the problems.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.