FORTY-four people were killed and eight badly injured when a plane crashed onto a highway and burst into flames in northern Russia, narrowly missing an inhabited area, officials said today.
The RussAir Tu-134 tried to stage an apparent emergency landing in poor weather conditions just before midnight on a motorway 2km from its destination of Petrozavodsk airport in the Karelia region.
But the 30-year-old plane broke up into fragments and erupted into flames as it made contact with the ground, the Karelia branch of the emergencies ministry said in a statement on its website.
It was unclear why the plane was forced to attempt a landing on the highway but investigators pointed to a possible failure with the landing systems at Petrozavodsk, including high-intensity landing lights.
“The plane sustained a hard landing two kilometres from Petrozavodsk,” the emergencies ministry said. “Forty-four people were killed and eight people injured.”
mages published on the ministry’s website showed wreckage strewn across the road and an inhabited area perilously close in the background. The plane, flying from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, carried 43 passengers and nine crew members.
“The scene is terrible. It’s carnage. It was a miracle that fragments of the fuselage did not hit houses on the edge of the village of Besovets,” a source in the aviation industry told the Interfax agency. “Corpses are strewn over the highway,” the source added.
The head of the Karelia region, Andrei Nelidov, has travelled to the scene of the crash and will later hold an emergency meeting including prosecutors and the FSB Security Service.
Russia’s Karelia region, which lies close to the border with Finland, is a picturesque area of lakes and forests hugely popular with Russian tourists for the summer holidays.
The spokeswoman of the emergencies ministry Irina Andrianova told the Interfax news agency that seven of the eight injured were “in an extremely serious condition” and all the casualties were receiving treatment for burns.
The lifenews.ru website said a child named as Anton Terekhin, 10, was among the survivors. The head of the emergencies ministry’s regional operations, Shamstudin Dagirov, told Russian news agencies that a Swedish citizen was killed.
The head of the Petrozavodsk airport Alexei Kuzmitsky told Interfax that weather conditions around the airport a derelict airstrip in Russia’s remote Komi region after its electrical systems failed midflight.