Vol. 5 Num 994 Sun. March 18, 2007  
Front Page

7 killed in crash landing of Russian plane

Seven people were killed and 50 injured yesterday when a passenger plane crashed in Samara, 1,100 kilometres east of Moscow, in the latest incident to hit Russia's aviation industry, officials told Russian media.

"The plane made a crash landing at 9:40 a.m. (0640 GMT) at Samara airport. The plane's fuselage broke apart during the landing," Irina Adrianova, a spokeswoman for the emergency situations ministry, told state television channel Vesti-24.

The accident comes after 2006 was declared the deadliest year on record for air safety in Russia.

Of the 50 passengers and seven crew members aboard, "there were seven fatalities. Ten people were taken to the Samara hospital, of whom six are in serious condition, and 34 people suffered mild injuries," Adrianova said.

Another six people were trapped in the wreckage of the plane, which was operated by local airline YUT-Air, for about three hours being freed by rescue workers, she said. Their condition was not immediately known.

The cause of the crash was unclear, with emergency ministry officials saying the landing gear on the Tupolev Tu-134 may have failed to deploy and that weather conditions had been poor.

The twin-engine plane, which was en route to Samara from the Russian city of Surgut, 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) east of Moscow, "landed 400 meters before the beginning of the landing strip," a spokesman for the Samara region prosecutor said, agency ITAR-TASS reported.

The Prosecutor General issued a preliminarily statement blaming pilot error.

The crash came three days after a Boeing 737 carrying 143 passengers made an emergency landing in Moscow after experiencing problems in one of its two engines. No one was injured in the incident.

Russia suffered its worst-ever year for air safety in 2006, with 33 accidents leaving 318 dead -- a sixfold increase over 2005 -- according to a report by the Interstate Aviation Committee, a joint group involving former Soviet states.

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov criticized the state of Russian air safety while expressing his condolences to the families of the dead and injured in the Samara crash.

"These events always reflect the shortcomings in the industry," he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying during a visit to Windhoek, Namibia.

Families of victims will receive 75,000 dollars (56,000 euros) each from YUT-Air as compensation, Interfax quoted the ministry of transport as saying.

The air safety report blamed human error for 70 percent of Russia's air accidents over the past five years.