A five-year-old girl and her mother were among 71 people who died when a Russian passenger plane crashed near Moscow shortly after taking off.
Nadezhda Krasova, five, the youngest victim in the crash, died along with her mother Oksana Krasova, 32, after the Antonov An-148 airliner broke up in mid-air, according to eyewitness reports.
The Saratov Airlines regional jet disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from the capital’s Domodedovo Airport.
The plane crashed, with 65 passengers and six crew aboard, just a few minutes after setting off Orsk, a city in the Urals, around 1,000 miles southeast of Moscow.
Like many of the victims, Nadezhda and her mother were from Orsk, in Orenburg region, which will mark a day of mourning on Monday.
Also among the dead were Evgeny Livanov, 12, and Ilya Poletayev, 17, according to local reports. Stewardesses Anastasia Slavinskaya, 29, and Viktoria Koval, 21, and second pilot Sergey Gambaryan, 34, also died.
Other passengers who died included Ulyana Son, 28, Kriskentia Alexeenko, 25, and doctor Lyudmila Kovchuga, 53, also died.
The governor of the Orenburg region, where the plane was flying to, told Russian media that ‘more than 60 people’ on board the plane were from the region.
However, Russian sources said foreigners from Switzerland, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan were also on the doomed flight. A British embassy spokesman said they were not aware of any British victims.
Aviation website FlightRadar reported the aircraft was last measured falling at a rate of 22,000ft per minute.
Fragments from the Antonov An-148 airliner were found in the Ramenskoye area, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the airport. Footage on state television showed them strewn across a snowy field with no buildings nearby.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said Sunday afternoon that ‘judging by everything, no one has survived this crash.’ Russia’s Investigative Committee said all possible causes were being explored.
The crew did not report any problems prior to the plane falling out of the sky, Russian sources say.
‘No reports about technical malfunctions were received from the plane’s crew,’ said Svetlana Petrenko of the Russian Investigative Committee which has launched a criminal investigation into the crash.
Airport staff in Moscow were tonight being quizzed over the way the plane was prepared for its flight, she said.
‘Investigators are questioning employees of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport who were engaged to prepare the plane for the flight.
‘A similar inspection is conducted at the airport’s air traffic control service.’
State television aired a video of the crash site, showing parts of the wreckage in the snow.
The plane crash left a crater more than 8ft deep and 60ft in diameter, but debris was said to be scattered over more than a half-mile radius.
‘I heard a noise… like a roar. It was quite unusual,’ an eyewitness called Alexey said.
‘You know, it sounds very strange when no one is around when you hear such an unusual roar…
‘I put on my shoes and rushed outside.
‘And I saw…an explosion. So big, there was such a cloud.
‘Mushroom-shaped, like a nuclear explosion in miniature. The fragments were flying, burning.
‘One of them flew right onto me.’
And remarkable CCTV footage appears to show the moment of the devastating An-148 crash.
From a distance, overlooking a snowy landscape the camera suddenly picks up a fireball and trail of smoke and flames either at or close to ground level.
It is unclear if this is the main body of the aircraft or a part but it moves at terrifying speed over the winter landscape.
The footage may give vital clues to crash experts seeking an explanation for the tragedy.
At the crash site, the debris is mainly small pieces strewn over a large area, while the bodies of passengers and crew are ‘unrecognizable’, say Russian officials.
The authorities are preparing DNA tests for grieving relatives in order to be able to match to the mangled remains of the victims.
Meanwhile, a couple has revealed how they cheated death after deciding to change their tickets at the last minute because a new car wasn’t ready.
Businessman Maxim Kolomeytsev, who turned 35 today, and his girlfriend Nazezha, 25, had tickets for the doomed flight.
‘I lost 10,000 roubles (£125) on making the change, but we’ve got our lives,’ he said.
‘I wanted to celebrate my birthday with my relatives in Orsk,’ he said.
But he also intended to buy himself a car in his home city to mark his 35th birthday.
He said: ‘The car was delayed. The showroom said it wasn’t ready.
‘We had bought the tickets for me and my girlfriend. But when I found out the car was not ready I delayed the trip by a week.’
A video filmed by local boys showed wreckage in the snow and debris was found spread over a ‘large area’. One source added: ‘It appears the plane began to fall apart in the sky.’
An emergencies ministry source told Interfax: ‘The plane crashed near the village of Argunovo. The crew and passengers had no chance.
‘The plane vanished from radar minutes after taking off from Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.’
Russia has seen record high snowfalls in recent days and visibility was reportedly poor at the time of the crash.
However, investigators are likely to be looking for other explanations if witness reports are correct that the aircraft suffered a catastrophic structural failure in mid-air.
Russian President Vladimir Putin put off a planned trip to Sochi in order to closely monitor the investigation.
Putin was to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in the Black Sea resort, where the president has an official residence.
Instead, Abbas will meet with Putin in Moscow in the latter part of Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.
The An-148 was developed by Ukraine’s Antonov company in the early 2000s and manufactured in both Ukraine and Russia.
Russian state news agency Tass said the plane that crashed had been flying since 2010, with a two-year break because of a shortage of parts.
The plane was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, but was put into storage between 2015 and 2017 because of the parts shortage.
Tass reported that it re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017.
Initial Russian reports blamed the weather or human error, but it was unclear how these squared with claims that the plane broke up in the sky.
Russian media reported that the emergency services were unable to reach the crash site by road and that rescue workers walked to the scene on foot.
Emergency services said in a statement that more than 150 rescue workers were deployed to the site.
A source at Domodedovo, Moscow’s second largest airport, told agencies that the plane disappeared from radars within two minutes of take-off.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into Saratov Airlines following the crash.
Shabby equipment and poor supervision had plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved markedly in recent years.
The last large-scale crash in Russia occurred on December 25, 2016, when a Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry on its way to Syria crashed into the Black Sea minutes after take-off from the southern Russian city of Sochi.
All 92 people on board were killed in a crash that was later blamed on pilot error.
The plane was carrying Russia’s famed Red Army Choir who had been due to give a concert to Russian troops in Syria.
In March 2016, a Boeing 737-800 flown by FlyDubai crashed while landing at Rostov-on-Don, killing all 62 people aboard.
An onboard bomb destroyed a Russian Metrojet airliner soon after taking off from Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 224 people in October 2015.
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