At least 41 killed after Russian plane catches fire

At least 41 people were killed Sunday after a Russian airliner made a hard emergency landing and caught fire at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, officials said.

Russia’s Investigative Committee initially announced that 13 people had died, including two children. The updated death toll was given by committee spokeswoman Elena Markovskaya at a news conference late Sunday. Markovskaya added that 37 people had survived.

Aeroflot flight SU1492, a Sukhoi SSJ-100 regional jet, had taken off for the northern city of Murmansk before it was forced to turn around with 73 passengers and five crew members on board, airport officials said. The airport statement said the plane’s hard landing started the fire.

Aeroflot said in a brief statement that technical problems forced the jet to turn around, but did not elaborate.

Some news reports cited sources as saying the plane bounced several times during the landing.

“Investigators soon will begin interviewing victims, eyewitnesses, airport staff and the airline carrier, as well as other persons responsible for the operation of the aircraft,” Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.

Videos and pictures posted to Twitter showed the jet landing at Sheremetyevo Airport with large flames engulfing the rear section.

One video showed a massive amount of flames coming from what appeared to be the engine as the plane touched down on a runway.

Video aired by Russian news channel Rossiya-24 showed passengers leaping from the front of the burning aircraft onto an inflatable slide and staggering across the tarmac and adjoining grass.

A law enforcement source told the Interfax news agency that the plane gave a distress signal after departure, then tried to make an emergency landing. After a first attempt failed, the aircraft was able to make a landing on the second try.

The incident caused at least 53 flights to be delayed and one canceled, according to Interfax. Airport officials told the news agency that the airport was operating “in a limited mode with one runway.”

The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia’s troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.

The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft but also is used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico.

This is the second deadly incident involving the plane. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 aboard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.    –    06. 05. 2019

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