Let It All Bleed Out
Russian plane crash kills 31, exposes safety record
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A passenger plane crashed and burst into flames after takeoff in Siberia on Monday [Apr. 2, 2012] killing 31 people and putting the spotlight on Russia's poor air-safety record before Vladimir Putin's return as president.
Thirteen survivors were pulled from the wreckage but one later died after being rushed by helicopter to hospital in the city of Tyumen, some 1,720 km (1,070 miles) east of Moscow, emergency officials said.
Television footage showed the UTair airlines ATR 72, which had snapped in two, lying in a snowy field with only the tail and rear visible. Emergency workers sifted through the wreckage and cleared away the snow.
An investigative committee said the most likely cause of the crash was a technical malfunction as the 21-year-old twin-engine, turbo-prop plane carried its four crew and 39 passengers on a flight to the oil town of Surgut.
"I went out on to my porch and heard a bang, saw a small flash and smoke came out. It turned, with smoke coming out, started to lose height and came down in the field. If it had turned a bit further, it would have hit us," a local resident, identified only as Alexei, told RIA news agency.
He said he often saw aircraft fly past, and the plane appeared not to be on the usual flight path: "It should have been behind my house but it was in front of it."
The investigative committee said the plane had notched up 35,000 flying hours since going into operation in 1992 and had not had a "serious" technical check since 2010.
Yuri Alekhin, head of the regional branch of the Emergencies Ministry, told Russian television at the scene of the crash that the "black box" flight recorder had been found and contact had been lost with the plane just over three minutes after take-off. Continued...