Plane Crash In Siberia Kills 31; Criminal Probe Underway

  on April 02 2012 9:33 AM

A plane reportedly burst into flames shortly after takeoff Monday in Siberia, killing 31 people and injuring the 12 others who were aboard. An earlier estimate had the death toll one higher, at 32.

A French-Italian-made ATR-72 carrying 43 people crashed during an attempted emergency landing in a snow-covered field near Roshchino airport, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Tyumen, a city in western Siberia.

The twin-engine turboprop operated by Russian regional carrier UTair was heading to the oil center of Surgut, also in Siberia, when it disappeared from radar screens soon after takeoff and crashed around 7:50 a.m. (0150 GMT).

On board were 39 passengers and four crew members, Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported. Several of the 12 were hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

Russia's Investigative Committee confirmed to RIA-Novosti that no children were on board, in contrast to an earlier report.

Pilot error or mechanical failure are suspected to have caused the crash, while terrorism was ruled out, according to news reports.

There are no explanations yet, Yury Alekhin, head of the regional arm of the Emergency Situations Ministry, told Russian television from the scene.

The plane's flight-data recorder was recovered near the crash site, Alekhin said.

The plane broke into three pieces upon impact and caught fire. A witness from a village near the crash site reported seeing smoke coming from both of the plane's engines shortly before the crash.

The plane that crashed was built in 1992, aviation investigators were quoted as saying. The ATR-72 is a medium-range plane that in a typical configuration can carry up to 68 passengers. It is jointly produced by Italian defense and aerospace group Finmeccanica SpA (BIT: FNC) and the French-led consortium European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. NV (EPA: EAD).

This was the first crash in Russia of an ATR-72, Russian news reports said, although the plane has been involved in about a dozen crashes worldwide, most recently in Cuba in November 2010, in which 68 people were killed.

A criminal investigation into possible violations of Russia's safety code was already underway Monday, with the Transportation Ministry setting up a special commission to handle the probe

Monday's plane crash was the deadliest in Russia since a domestically produced Yak-42 jet slammed into a riverbank near the city of Yaroslavl after takeoff last Sept. 7, killing 44 people, including the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional hockey team.

The International Air Transport Association said in December that global airline safety rates had improved in 2011 but that in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes most former Soviet republics, the rate had risen. Russia itself recorded nine crashes claiming 140 lives last year.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an overhaul of Russia's air traffic system after the Yaroslavl crash, acknowledging problems such as shoddy aircraft maintenance, poor flight training, aging manufacturing plants and lax oversight.

Join the Discussion