Russian airliner carrying 143 people crashes
MOSCOW (AP) – A Russian airliner crashed and burst into flames in Siberia early Wednesday, killing all aboard, the Civil Aviation Authority said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. News reports said 143 people were on board.
The plane belonging to the Vladivostokavia airline disappeared from radar screens about 9:10 p.m. Moscow time Tuesday
The wreckage was discovered near the village of Burdanovka, about 20 miles from Irkutsk, which is 2,600 miles east of Moscow.
The aviation authority said there were no survivors, but gave no figure for the number of victims. Earlier, the Interfax news agency had reported 133 passengers and 10 crew were on board.
No problems had been reported upon takeoff from Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, headed for Vladivostok, the major port on Russia’s Pacific Coast, state television RTR reported. The plane was to have stopped in Irkutsk for refueling.
A Tu-154 crashed on takeoff from Irkutsk in 1994, killing 124 people. The plane reportedly was overloaded.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, civil aviation fell into a steep decline as hundreds of small airlines were spun off from the onetime monolithic Aeroflot.
Russia and other former Soviet republics were plagued with air crashes as aircraft maintenance and supervision deteriorated. But in recent years, the number of crashes appeared to have lessened.
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu was heading from the Lensk region of Siberia, where he was coordinating efforts to recover from disastrous spring floods.
From the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin was monitoring developments in Wednesday’s crash and ordered formation of an investigatory commission to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who also has led the investigation of last year’s catastrophic sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk.
The most recent major crash involving Russia was in October 2000, when an Il-18 transporting Russian soldiers crashed in Georgia, killing 83 people.
The three-engine Tu-154, first put into commercial service in 1972, is the workhorse of Russia’s domestic airlines and widely used throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as in China.
A Tu-154 belonging to China Southwest Airlines crashed in China in 1999, killing all 61 people aboard. A German-owned Tu-154 collided with a U.S. Air Force C-141 off the coast of Namibia in 1998, killing 33 people and in 1997 a Tajik Tu-154 crashed en route to the United Arab Emirates, killing 85.
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