44 dead in Russian plane crash

Jun 21, 2011

A plane carrying 52 people in northern Russia crashed late on Monday night, with many of the passengers feared dead.

The Tupolev-134 was travelling from Moscow to the northern Russian city of Petrozavodsk when it crashed just before midnight. It was carrying 43 passengers and nine crew.

Eyewitnesses said that the plane broke up and caught fire on landing.

"Preliminary information is that about 40 are dead. The other eight are in hospital," said a spokesman for the Russian Emergency Ministry. Later the death toll was revised up to 44.

Local news agencies reported that a Swedish national and Russian Premier League soccer referee Vladimir Pettay were among the dead.

Officials said the plane crash landed in a field, nine miles away from the airport. As it came down it narrowly missed houses built close to a motorway. Photographs from the scene showed firemen battling with fires among the wreckage of the plane.

The Tu-134 plane, belonging to the RusAir airline, was en route from Moscow to the city of Petrozavodsk, Emergencies Ministry spokesman Olga Semyonova said.

Her ministry said in a website statement that 44 people were killed. Eight survivors, including a 10-year-old boy, were hospitalised in critical condition in Petrozavodsk.

Ms Semyonova said the plane went down on its final approach to the airport in Petrozavodsk, making a crash landing one to one mile short of the runway. It was unclear if the plane had attempted to land on the road, or just happened to fall there, she said. Petrozavodsk is in Karelia province, near the Finnish border, about 400 miles northwest of Moscow.

Authorities had no immediate explanation for the accident, but the Interfax news agency quoted the airport director Alexei Kuzmitsky as saying there were "unfavorable weather conditions."