Forty-one people were killed when a plane caught fire and made an emergency landing at Moscow’s main airport on Sunday (local time), Russian investigators have said.
- TV footage shows the plane engulfed in flames and black smoke
- The Murmansk-bound aircraft had 73 passengers and five crew members on board
- It circled twice over Moscow before making an emergency landing after about 45 minutes
Television footage showed the Aeroflot passenger jet landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport with much of its rear part engulfed in flames and black smoke.
Two children were among the passengers who died, Russia’s Investigative Committee said.
The airport said the aircraft — a Sukhoi Superjet-100 — had 73 passengers and five crew members on board.
Video showed passengers leaping from the plane onto an inflatable emergency slide at the front of the aircraft.
Passengers then staggered across the tarmac and grass at the airport, some of them carrying luggage.
Investigators and the airport said the plane had taken off for the northern city of Murmansk, but turned back because of unspecified technical problems.
While some Russian news reports initially cited sources as saying the plane caught fire mid-air, the airport said in a statement that it was the plane’s hard landing that started the fire.
Russian investigators said they had opened an investigation and were looking into whether the pilots had breached air safety rules.
“Investigators soon will begin interviewing victims, eyewitnesses, airport staff and the airline carrier, as well as other persons responsible for the operation of the aircraft,” Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.
The Interfax news agency reported that a rescue team was combing through the charred wreckage of the rear of the plane looking for survivors.
The Flightradar24 tracking service showed that the plane had circled twice over Moscow before making an emergency landing after about 45 minutes.