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Dozens killed as plane crashes on motorway in northern Russia

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-06-21

Forty-four people were killed and eight more were wounded when a plane crashed onto a motorway while trying to land in Petrozavodsk, northern Russia, after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport, officials said on Tuesday.

AFP - A Russian plane shattered into burning fragments when it crashed into a motorway just short of its airport, killing 44 and leaving eight survivors fighting for their lives, officials said Tuesday.

The RusAir Tu-134 was trying to land at its destination of Petrozavodsk in the Karelia region of northern Russia in bad weather but failed to make the runway and instead hurtled onto a road two kilometres (1.25 miles) away.

The impact of the landing just before midnight blasted parts of the plane and corpses of the passengers several hundred metres distant as the burning wreckage blazed in the night sky.

In a catastrophic sequence of events, some local officials said the plane appeared to have hit a power line as it approached the airport in the bad weather, triggering a power cut which switched off the runway lighting.

"The plane sustained a hard landing two kilometres from Petrozavodsk," the emergencies ministry said in a statement on its website. "Forty-four people were killed and eight people injured."

The survivors included a nine-year-old boy called Anton Terekhin, and his sister Anastasia Terekhina, 14, from Sakhalin Island in Far Eastern Russia, while their mother died, a regional emergency ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

A Swedish national, a Dutch citizen and two Ukrainians were among the dead, as well as a family of four with dual Russian and US citizenship, the ministry said on its website.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences to victims' families and wished the casualties a speedy recovery, his press secretary told the Interfax news agency.

Television footage showed rescue workers examining the wreckage with paint burnt off and the wheels in the air. The plane had splintered off the tops of trees and broken through a fence perilously close to a residential area.

The plane, flying from Moscow's Domodedovo airport, carried 43 passengers and nine crew members.

A rescuer told Rossiya 1 state television that he managed to pull out four passengers before the plane caught fire.

"I carried out a woman in my arms. Then we brought out a large man and two people from the mid-section. Then everything burst into flames and started exploding. It was impossible to go close," the witness said.

The force of the crash scattered wreckage to a distance of 300 metres (yards), investigators said.

The head of the Karelia region, Andrei Nelidov, travelled to the scene of the crash and promised the relatives of the dead compensation of 1 million rubles ($35,711).

Russia's Karelia region, which lies close to the border with Finland, is a picturesque area of lakes and forests hugely popular with Russian tourists for the summer holidays.

The head of an emergency medicine centre at the health ministry, Sergei Goncharov, told Interfax that medics planned to evacuate five of the eight injured to Moscow. Two were in a serious condition, he said.

The head of the Petrozavodsk airport Alexei Kuzmitsky told Interfax that weather conditions around the airport at the time were "unfavourable" and Andrianova said there had been heavy fog and rain when the plane crashed.

"The Tu-134 hit a power line due to pilot error, cut it, depriving the runway of power," said Kuzmitsky. This version of events was also backed by Karelia's top safety official Nikolai Fedotov.

But the inter-state air commission (MAK), which investigates air accidents in the ex-USSR, said it was premature to draw conclusions. The plane's black boxes have been located.

RusAir officials told Russian news agencies that the plane, made in 1981, had been completely checked before take-off and there had been no technical issues with the aircraft.

The spokesman of the Russian Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin told news agencies that a criminal probe was being opened into neglect of air transport rules.

Russia's aviation industry remains blighted by repeated accidents involving its ageing fleet of planes, with the Soviet-era Tupolev jets having a particularly poor safety record.

In April last year, a Tu-154 carrying Polish president Lech Kaczynski and other top officials came down in fog near the Russian city of Smolensk killing all 96 people on board.

In September, a Tu-154 made a miraculous emergency landing on a derelict airstrip in Russia's remote Komi region after its electrical systems failed midflight.

 

Date created : 2011-06-21

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