Seventy-one people are feared dead after a Russian passenger plane lost contact with air traffic control and crashed shortly after takeoff. The aircraft involved in the crash was an Ukranian-made Antonov An-148 which is a medium-range aircraft capable of carrying up to 85 passengers. The aircraft was owned by the Russian airline company Saratov Airlines based out of the city of Saratov in Saratov Oblast.
According to Russian news agency TASS, radio contact with the aircraft was lost just a few minutes after it took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The aircraft took off at 14:21 Moscow time and crashed within minutes. According to Flightradar, the aircraft was making a scheduled flight from Moscow to Orsk. An official from Russia’s Air Transport Agency Rosaviatsia issued a statement confirming the accident and said that there were 65 passengers and six crew members aboard the plane.
“The An-148 passenger plane of the Saratov Airlines [Flight 730 from Moscow to Orsk] took off from the Domodedovo airport at 14:21 Moscow time. According to preliminary data, there were 65 passengers and six crew members aboard the plane. Radio contact with the plane was lost several minutes after the takeoff, and the plane went out of the radars. It happened in Moscow region’s Ramensky district,” the statement read.
An official from the Russian cabinet added that most of the debris of the plane was found near the village of Stepanovskoye.
“Fragments of the An-148 plane and several bodies have been found near the village of Stepanovskoye,” he was quoted saying.
A team of rescuers has reached the site of the crash. However, there are also reports of debris from the aircraft being spread over a large area, thereby making the task of any rescue operations difficult. Some bodies have already been retrieved, and according to officials, it is almost certain that no passenger or crew would have survived the crash. The Russian government has already ordered a probe to analyze the cause of this plane crash. Initial speculations point towards the possibility of poor weather conditions, pilot error, or a technical malfunction.
Meanwhile, a tweet by Flightradar revealed that the crashed aircraft quickly lost altitude within five to six minutes after takeoff and during the last seconds of flight, it began falling at a rate of 22,000 feet per minute.
Update: Investigators have managed to recover one of the black boxes of the aircraft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences to the families of the people who lost their lives in the crash.