By Travis Fedschun, ,
Published February 11, 2018
A Russian airliner crashed minutes after takeoff from one of Moscow's airports on Sunday, killing all 65 passengers and six crew members on board, officials said.
The plane was an An-148, a regional jet belonging to Saratov Airlines, that had taken off from Domodedovo Airport and was headed to Orsk about 1,000 miles southeast of Moscow, REN-TV reported.
The Moscow Inter-Regional Transport Prosecutor's Office said in a statement to Interfax that all people on board the plane have died. "The plane was carrying 65 passengers and six crewmembers. All of them died," the agency said.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov added that "judging by everything, no one has survived this crash."
Authorities have found a black box belonging to the aircraft and have cordoned off the area of the crash site, regional head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Sergei Poletykin said in a conference call.
"One recorder was found at the crash site," Poletykin said.
The crew of the doomed aircraft did not report any malfunctions, Svetlana Petrenko, an official representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, told Interfax.
"At the moment it has been established that there have been no reports of aircraft failure from the crew," Petrenko said.
All of the passengers aboard the airliner are believed to have been residents of the region that was the plane's destination. The Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Sheremetsinsky, a spokesman for the regional governor, as saying that all passengers were residents of the Orenburg region along the border with Kazakhstan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin postponed a planned trip to Sochi to closely monitor the investigation and offered his condolences to the families of those killed.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement to Interfax that Putin "expresses deep condolences to all those who lost their relatives and friends in this disaster."
"The president instructed the government to set up a special commission in connection with the plane crash in the Moscow region and instructed the relevant agencies to conduct the necessary search operations," Peskov told Interfax.
Putin was to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in 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.
Fragments of the jet were found in the Ramenskoye area about 25 miles from the airport, according to REN-TV. Footage on state television showed them strewn across a snowy field with no buildings nearby. No on the ground casualties were reported.
The flight took off from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and spent about 5 minutes in the air before a signal was lost about 12 miles southeast of the airport, according to Flightradar24, a flight-tracking website.
Witnesses in the village told local media they saw a burning plane falling from the sky, according to Sky News.
A local resident told REN-TV she heard an explosion.
"I left the house, saw the plane, an explosion was heard and the sky turned red," the unnamed woman told the television station.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry said in a series of tweets the recovery process would involve up to 300 people, and that the crash scene was only accessible on foot due to weather conditions.
It is not immediately clear what caused the crash, with weather conditions and pilot error said to be among the possible reasons. Russia's Investigative Committee said all possible crash causes were being looked into.
Russia's state news agency Tass said the plane had been flying since 2010, with a two-year break because of a shortage of parts.
The plane, an Antonov An-148 jet, was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, but was put into storage during 2015-2017 because of a lack of parts. Tass reports it re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017. The jet was developed by Ukraine's Antonov company in the early 2000s, and was manufactured in both Ukraine and Russia.
While it remains to be seen what caused the crash on Sunday, shabby equipment and poor supervision had plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved markedly 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 soon after taking off from Egypt's Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 224 people in October 2015.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.