71 killed as Russian plane crashes shortly after takeoff near Moscow, President Putin offers condolences
A Russian domestic passenger plane crashed on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Sunday after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport, Russian media reported on Sunday. All 71 people, 65 passengers and 6 crew members, aboard the plane were killed in the disaster, investigators said.
"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-128 disappeared from radar screens four minutes after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport, the office added.The plane, operated by the domestic Saratov Airlines was flying to Orsk, a city in the Urals, crashed in the Ramensky district outside Moscow.
It was not immediately clear what had caused the crash, which happened as temperatures hovered around minus 5 degrees Celsius with periodic snowfalls.
President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to those who had lost relatives and ordered a special investigative commission to be set up. Investigators said they had opened a criminal case into the incident and were looking at all possibilities.
"According to preliminary information, nobody survived," the Kremlin said in a statement.
News agencies said witnesses in the village of Argunovo saw a burning plane falling from the sky. A source from Russia's emergency services told Interfax that the 71 people on board "had no chance" of survival. The same news agency reported that the wreckage of the plane was spread over a wide area around the crash site.
A hotline (8 800 775 17 17) has been opened for the family of the passengers to reach out for any information about those on board. Images broadcast on state TV showed relatives waiting at Orsk airport, some with their heads in their hands. The city's mayor told the Rossiya 24 TV channel a team of psychologists was working at the airport to comfort people.
Russian state television aired a video of the crash site, showing parts of the wreckage in the snow. Russia has seen record high snowfalls in recent days and visibility was reportedly poor.
The Russian-made plane was 7 years-old and bought by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago.
Russian media reported that the emergency services were unable to reach the crash site by road and that rescue workers walked to the scene on foot. Emergency services said in a statement that over 150 rescue workers were deployed to the site.
A source at Domodedovo, Moscow's second largest airport, told agencies that the plane disappeared from radars within two minutes of take-off. The Russian transport minister was on his way to the crash site, agencies reported. The transport ministry said several causes for the crash are being considered, including weather conditions and human error.
The governor of the Orenburg region, where the plane was flying to, told Russian media that "more than 60 people" onboard the plane were from the region.
Plane crashes are common in Russia, where airlines often operate ageing aircraft in testing flying conditions.
A light aircraft crashed in November in Russia's far east, killing six people on board.
In December 2016, a military plane carrying Russia's famed Red Army Choir crashed after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, killing all 92 people on board. The choir had been due to give a concert to Russian troops operating in Syria. Pilot error was blamed for that crash.
In March 2016, all 62 passengers died when a FlyDubia jet crashed in bad weather during an aborted landing at Rostov-on-Don airport.