41 dead after emergency landing of burning aircraft in Moscow

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The plane on fire in Moscow, May 5, 2019. – HO / RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE / AFP

Forty-one people died Sunday in the emergency landing of an aircraft of the Russian company Aeroflot, which was fully engulfed with 78 people on board at Moscow-Sheremetyevo Airport.

“According to the corrected data available to investigators at present, 37 people have survived,” the Inquiry said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee (the body responsible for major investigations in Russia), Elena Markovskaya, then explicitly confirmed to journalists that the death toll was 41 dead.

Two serious injuries in intensive care

The previous record was 13 dead while the impressive images of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 in flames left fears a much heavier balance sheet. “Currently, six wounded are hospitalized. Two seriously wounded are in intensive care, “Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova told journalists on the spot, adding that 14 people needed medical help.

The plane had been forced for a reason still unknown to return to Moscow-Sheremetyevo, a few minutes after taking off for Murmansk (north). The first sources reported a fire on board but a video published hours after the crash shows the aircraft touching the tarmac, then bouncing before igniting.

Immediately after the landing, the passengers were evacuated by the slides before the plane as it was blazing at high speed, huge volutes of black smoke rising in the air. Other amateur videos showed passengers running on the tarmac to get away from the aircraft. Another, shot from inside the cabin, shows a burning engine as panic cries rise into the aircraft.

The aircraft would have landed with its tanks filled with fuel

The tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda published the testimony of a passenger on the plane, Petr Egorov: “We had just taken off and the aircraft was struck by lightning (…) The landing was hard, we almost lost consciousness of fear. The plane bounced off the tarmac like a grasshopper and caught fire on the ground.

Interfax quoted an unnamed source as saying that the aircraft had landed with its tanks filled with fuel because the radio contact with the air traffic controllers was lost, “it was dangerous to perform a maneuver to empty the tanks. above Moscow “. “A criminal investigation for violation of the security rules” was opened, said in a statement the Investigation Committee. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin had expressed his condolences to the relatives of the victims.

Several flights were diverted to other airports in Moscow or Nizhny Novgorod, about 500 kilometers east of the Russian capital. “A commission is working. Any conclusion is premature, “said a spokesman for the Russian agency Rossaviatsia about a possible immobilization of the Superjet after the crash.

The Superjet, pride of the country but much criticized

The Sukhoi Superjet 100, the first civilian aircraft designed by post-Soviet Russia to compete with Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier in the regional jet market, was a source of pride for the country at the time of its launch in 2011. It is however very decried and hardly to convince outside the Russian market.

Several foreign companies that exploited it have preferred to reduce or stop its use, citing problems of reliability. Its launch was tarnished by a plane crash in May 2012 during a demonstration flight to Indonesia, which killed 45 people.

To support the aircraft manufacturer, the Russian government has set up subsidies to encourage Russian operators to buy Superjet: Aeroflot thus became the first user of the aircraft and announced in September 2018 to have placed a record order of 100 Superjet . The last major crash in Russia dates back to February 2018: an An-148 from Saratov Airlines crashed near Moscow shortly after takeoff, leaving 71 dead.



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