At least 50 feared dead as passenger jet crashes in central Russia
At least 50 people died after a Boeing passenger plane crashed while landing in the city of Kazan in central Russia on Saturday, according to the Emergencies Ministry. A doctor working at the scene said that “only ashes" were left from the plane.
The passenger aircraft Boeing 737-500 operated by the regional Tatarstan airline exploded after crash-landing in the airport of Kazan at 15:25 GMT, according to Interfax. The jet’s nose reportedly hit the ground during touchdown. Flight U363 was coming from Moscow Domodedovo airport.
Initially, 44 fatalities were reported. Later the Federal Air Transport Agency said that 50 people - including six crew members - were on board, all of whom were killed. No children were first said to be on board the plane. However, when the Emergencies Ministry published a list of the victims, it included an 11-year-old girl.
The passenger jet caught on fire after the crash landing in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The flames were extinguished less than one hour into the disaster, ITAR-TASS reported.
So far, rescuers have recovered the bodies of all 50 people from the crash site, according to Tatarstan's Disaster Medicine Center. Rescuers are looking for flight data recorders.
“Only ashes and pieces of foam were left from the plane [after the explosion],” a doctor from the emergency rescue team told ITAR-TASS.
Kazan is the eighth most populous city in Russia. Located 800km to the east of Moscow, it’s the capital of the largely-Muslim Republic of Tatarstan.
'One of fuel tanks detonated'
An emergency services source told Interfax that the pilots apparently made some mistake when entering the second lap.
“The plane attempted to land several times. One of the [fuel] tanks detonated while the plane was landing,” said Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius.
A witness traveling from Kazan to Moscow, who happened to be on the airfield at the moment of the crash, reported hearing a loud bang and feeling some trembling. The shuttle bus he was on was then diverted back to the terminal. The young man did not report any panic and said that he and other passengers were allowed to pick up their luggage within about 15 minutes after the crash.
All the forces of the Volga Regional Emergency Center are on high alert. A criminal case into the violation of flight rules has been initiated. The Interstate Aviation Committee is dispatching its experts to look into the accident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to form a commission to investigate the cause of the plane crash in Kazan, said presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Causes under review: Pilot error, technical failure, weather
The Investigation Committee has launched a probe into the crash. The head of the committee, Vladimir Markin, said the crash might have been caused by pilot error, technical malfunction, or weather conditions.
According to local reports, there were high winds and cloudy skies over the airport in central Russia. Temperatures were above zero.
Probes are expected to be launched on Monday morning.
An expert on air accidents, first-class pilot Vladimir Gerasimov told RT he suspects “an apparent crew error,” as the plane failed to make a precise landing approach on the first try. However, this can be verified only after the flight data recorder of the crashed plane is analyzed, he added.
'Boeing 737-500 caused trouble before'
The Boeing 737-500 is a make of a popular short- to medium-range twin-engine jet airliner, which was introduced in 1987. The series is also known as “Classic,” along with the 300 and the 400 models. The 737-500 can seat from 108 to 132 passengers and has two cockpit crew members.
The jet that crashed in Kazan - tail number VQ-BBN - was released in 1990. The Tatarstan airline bought the plane in December 2008.
This is not the first time that the aircraft has experienced problems. Just last year, the plane made an emergency landing at the same terminal, a law enforcement source told Interfax. The flight was headed to Moscow, but the plane made an emergency landing. Twenty minutes after takeoff, alarm sensors were reportedly triggered due to depressurization of the cabin. None of the 78 people on board were injured.