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Investigators hunt for clues over Russian passenger plane crash

  • Anna Malpas with Thibault Marchand

    Agence France-Presse

Moscow, Russia | Mon, February 12, 2018 | 03:45 pm
Investigators hunt for clues over Russian passenger plane crash A photo taken on May 6, 2017 shows Saratov Airlines airline plane An-148 with a tail number of RA-61704 on an airstrip at Moscow's Domodedovo international airport outside Moscow. (Agence France -Presse/Marina Lystseva )

Investigators will examine Monday numerous possible causes of one of Russia's worst ever aviation accidents that saw a passenger plane carrying 71 people crash near Moscow minutes after take off, killing everyone on board.

Russia's Investigative Committee said it would consider explanations including human error, technical failure and weather conditions, as the country has experienced record snowfall in recent weeks. But it did not mention the possibility of terrorism.

The Antonov An-148 plane went down in the Ramensky district on the outskirts of Moscow at 2:48 pm (1128 GMT) on Sunday after taking off from Domodedovo airport in the capital.

"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

Three children were among the fatalities on a list published by Russian authorities. 

The flight was operated by the domestic Saratov Airlines and was headed for Orsk, a city in the Ural mountains.

More than 400 people and 70 vehicles had been deployed to the crash site, the country's emergency ministry said.

The site was enveloped in heavy snow, making it difficult to access, with emergency workers forced to park their vehicles and reach the wreckage by foot. Others used snowmobiles and drones to survey the scene.

Russian transport minister Maksim Sokolov said "genetic expertise" would be needed to help identify the victims, adding that it could "take two or three months".

"I felt a shock wave," Maria, a resident of a village near the crash site, told AFP.

"The windows shook," she said

The transport investigations office said the plane disappeared from radar screens around four minutes after take-off.

A regional official said the aircraft's black box had been retrieved.

The Russian-made plane was reportedly seven years old and bought by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago.

Saratov was founded in the 1930s and flies to 35 Russian cities. Its hub is Saratov Central Airport in southern Russia.

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