Russian passenger jet crashes with 71 aboard dead

MOSCOW — A Russian airliner carrying 71 people crashed on Sunday shortly after taking off from the country’s second-busiest airport in Moscow, killing all the people on board.

The Antonov-148 of Saratov Airlines with 65 passengers and a crew of six was en route from Domodedovo Airport in Moscow to Orsk of the Orenburg Region in western Russia.

Radio contact with the seven-year-old Russia-made plane was lost at 14:21 Moscow time (1121 GMT), several minutes after takeoff.

“Tentatively, the plane has crashed near the village of Argunovo. The crew and passengers had no chance to survive,” a source in emergency services told the Interfax news agency.

At the scene near the village of Argunovo, about 80 km away from Moscow, a Xinhua reporter saw the plane had crashed into a forest there, and vehicles and personnel from the emergency department, police and aviation and space search and relief forces were busy with search.

A female witness told Xinhua that she first heard several dull thuds when the crash occurred, then she ran to the vicinity of the forest. She saw parts of the plane’s wreckage were scattered on the ground and some small parts floating in the air before disappearing in the snow.

Her husband told Xinhua that they saw neither naked flames nor blood, just smelled a burning smell when they arrived at the scene.

The wreckage was scattered within around 150 square meters, he said, adding that police and helicopters arrived later and sealed the scene, and large snow blowers worked in three teams to open routes toward the center of the scene.

It was reported that one of the two black boxes, the flight data recorders, has been found intact, but the cockpit voice recorder is still missing.

Witnesses in the village of Argunovo told news media that they saw a burning plane falling from the sky, and the Interfax report said fragments of two dead bodies have been found.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered “his profound condolences to those who lost their relatives in the crash” and issued an order to set up a government commission to probe the crash, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

The Russian Investigative Committee has opened an investigation into the crash and Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov has flown to the scene.

The Russian Transport Ministry told Interfax that several reasons are being considered for the crash, including weather conditions and human factors.

The Antonov-148 is a regional high-wing jet with a maximum range of about ‎2100-4400 km and passenger capacity of 68-85. The plane was designed and built by Ukraine’s Antonov company until 2017 and also built by Russia since then.