Published: Tue, May 07, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Russian pilot says plane was struck by lightning, crash killed 41

Russian pilot says plane was struck by lightning, crash killed 41

Russia's flagship airline Aeroflot says a passenger plane that was in flames after an emergency landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport had been forced to turn back after takeoff because of technical problems.

"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.

After the blazing plane stops, some passengers leap onto inflatable escape slides and stagger away from the raging flames, some toting their luggage.

Aeroflot Flight SU1492 returned to Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, making a hard landing, Interfax reported.

Russian news agencies said the plane, which had been flying from Moscow to the northern Russian city of Murmansk before turning back, had been carrying 78 passengers.

At least two children were among the 41 dead and nine more people were in hospital, three of them seriously injured, authorities said.

Investigators said they were looking into various lines of inquiry and it was premature to draw any conclusions about the cause of the accident.

Interfax news agency reported that the plane failed in its first attempt to land because it was still traveling at high speed, and then its automated equipment failed on the second approach, forcing the pilot into a hard landing.

Emergency services reported the fire was extinguished about 45 minutes after landing and said that there were 41 fatalities, six injuries and a still undetermined number of missing occupants.

Several of the 78 people on board said they believed lightning was the cause of the tragedy, which came at the end of several days of public holidays following Workers' Day on 1 May. The reason why the pilots decided to make an emergency landing has not been announced.

Yevdokimov did not specify if the plane was struck by lightning directly, but storms were passing through the Moscow area when the plane made its emergency landing.

The aircraft landed with full fuel tanks because the crew lost contact with air traffic controllers and decided it was too risky to dump fuel over Moscow, Russian news agency Interfax said.

According to the airline, Flight SU1492, en route from Moscow to the city of Murmansk in northwestern Russian Federation, suffered "malfunctions on board the aircraft" shortly after takeoff.

The plane's manufacturer, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, said the aircraft had received maintenance last month. The tail end of the Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 can be seen completely engulfed by fire, discharging thick, black smoke to the atmosphere.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a special committee to investigate the disaster.

A second video suggests that the plane may not have caught fire until the rough landing seemingly caused the main landing gear to collapse. "At 6:30 pm, the aircraft made an emergency landing", it added.

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