By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — A Russian domestic passenger plane crashed shortly after taking off from a Moscow airport on February 11, killing all 71 people on board, Russian authorities say.
“Sixty-five passengers and six crew members were on board, and all of them died,” Russia’s Office of Transport Investigations said in a statement.
The Antonov An-148 operated by Saratov Airlines vanished from radar screens as it was en route from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in Moscow to Orsk in the Urals, according to Interfax.
Fragments from the plane were found in Ramenskoye district, some 40 kilometers from the airport.
Flight-tracking site Flightradar24 tweeted that the plane was descending at 1,000 meters per minute five minutes after taking off.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president “offers his profound condolences to those who lost their relatives in the crash.”
Putin put off a planned trip to Sochi on February 12 in order to closely monitor the investigation, Peskov said.
The White House offered its condolences to families of the victims of the crash, saying in a statement that the United States “is deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of those on board Saratov Airlines Flight 703.”
“We send our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the people of Russia,” the statement added.
State TV channel Rossiya-24 showed footage of fragments of the plane in a snow-covered field with no buildings nearby.
One of the flight recorders has been recovered, officials said.
Most of those on board were from the Orenburg region, where the plane was flying to, local officials said. Three children and at least one foreign national were among the passengers.
The Orenburg regional government declared February 12 a day of mourning in the province.
Relatives of the victims have been gathering in the Orsk International Airport, an airport spokesman told Interfax.
“They are approaching us and are asking questions… We are giving them information,” the spokesman said.
The Transport Ministry was considering weather conditions and human error as possible reasons for the crash, according to Interfax.
The aircraft was manufactured by the Voronezh Aircraft Production Company in 2010, the company’s press service told TASS.
The company said it would set up a special commission to conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash.
Russian airlines have suffered two large-scale plane crashes in recent years. A Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 92 people on board, on December 25, 2016.
An onboard bomb destroyed a Russian Airbus A321 soon after taking off from Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 224 people, in October 2015. The Islamic State extremist group said it had placed the bomb aboard the plane.
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