At least 31 people were killed when a plane carrying 43 people, including children, crashed soon after takeoff in Siberia on Monday. The ATR-72 twin-engine airliner was flying from the western Siberian city of Tyumen to the oil town of Surgut.

As many as 39 passengers and four crew were on board the Utair aircraft. Thirteen survivors were pulled from the wreckage and rushed to Tyumen's City Hospital, but two of them died later. Most of the survivors have sustained serious injuries and burns and at least five are in a critical condition, an Associated Press report said.

The cause of the crash is not known yet but Utair has indicated technical difficulties and pilot error as the possible reasons for the crash. They have ruled out any kind of sabotage. However, the authorities have ordered a criminal probe into the accident, according to a rt.com report.

According to an eyewitness account, smoke was seen coming from the plane's engines just before the crash. The plane nosedived to the ground and split into two. According to information from Utair's website, the plane was trying for an emergency landing when it went down.

Yuri Alekhin, head of the regional branch of the Emergencies Ministry, told Russian television that contact was lost with the plane just over three minutes after take-off. He added that there are no explanations to the incident yet and the black box flight recorder had been found, according to the Reuters report.

The Emergencies Ministry has opened a hotline for the relatives of those onboard (8-800-775-17-17), in order to provide information and assistance.

Emergency
Emergency service workers investigate the wreckage of the UTair airlines ATR 72 passenger plane that crashed near the Siberian city of Tyumen April 2, 2012. A Russian passenger plane crashed and burst into flames after takeoff in an oil-producing region of Siberia on Monday, killing at least 31 of the 43 people on board, emergency officials said. REUTERS/Handout

Reuters/Handout
Reuters/Handout

The accident has once again raised concerns over the substandard flight and safety conditions in Russia. In the last year alone, nine Russian planes crashed, killing several passengers.

Russian airlines are being blamed for still depending on soviet-era aircraft and employing pilots and crew with a comparatively mediocre training, risking passenger safety.

ATR-72 is a French-Italian-made twin-engine turboprop passenger airliner that can be used to fly medium distances with maximum 74 passengers. The ATR-72 was involved in several crashes over the past years, the last one in Cuba in which 68 people were killed.  

The model that crashed was built in 1992 and was acquired by Utair in 2008. Utair is the only Russian airline that uses ATR-72.