MOSCOW: Thirty-one people were killed yesterday when a passenger plane crashed moments after takeoff in an oil-rich Siberian region in the latest accident to hit Russia’s crisis-prone aviation industry.
The emergencies ministry said the French-Italian made ATR-72 liner was carrying 39 passengers and four crew when it crashed 45 kilometres from the western Siberian city of Tyumen on a flight to the oil town of Surgut.
“Twelve people are in critical condition… Thirty-one have been killed,” the Tyumen emergencies ministry said in an updated statement after initially putting the death toll at 32.
The ATR-72 twin-engine plane was operated by UTair — a private Russian airline that conducts most of its flights in the energy-rich regions of Western Siberia and the Ural Mountains.
The airline said in a statement that the plane came down shortly after takeoff “while conducting a forced landing 1.5 kilometres” outside Roshchino airport.
An airport security officer told Interfax the plane had only managed to climb to about 100 metres before it lost all communication with air traffic controllers.
“The liner’s technical problems probably emerged during takeoff and the crew tried to perform an emergency landing,” the news agency said, quoting the airport official. UTair itself gave no immediate reason for the crash.
The Investigative Committee said its members had visited the airline’s office to “obtain technical and pre-flight documentation.”
Rescue teams found the plane’s cabin ablaze and the jet itself broken up into multiple charred pieces.
The Lifenew.ru website published photographs showing the tailplane lying in a snow-covered field some distance from other debris, including tires and segments of the cabin.
The Russian emergencies ministry said rescuers had discovered the so-called “black box” flight recorders.
The city of Tyumen lies 1,700 kilometres east of Moscow and is the capital of one of Russia’s biggest oil producing regions of the same name. The plane was flying to Surgut — the heart of the Surgutneftegaz energy company and one of Russia’s largest oil and natural gas producers.
Russia’s aviation industry remains blighted by repeated accidents involving its ageing fleet of planes, and president-elect Vladimir Putin has made industry reform one of the top priorities of his third term as Kremlin chief. — AFP