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Russia plane crash leaves 50 dead

Jet was trying to make second landing attempt

A woman read a list of the names of passengers aboard the airliner that crashed in Kazan, 450 miles east of Moscow.
A woman read a list of the names of passengers aboard the airliner that crashed in Kazan, 450 miles east of Moscow.Nikolai Alexandrov/Associated Press

MOSCOW — A Boeing 737 jetliner crashed and burst into flames Sunday night while trying to land at the airport in the Russian city of Kazan, killing all 50 people aboard in the latest of a string of deadly crashes across the country.

The Tatarstan Airlines plane was trying to make a second landing attempt when it touched the surface of the runway near the control tower, and was "destroyed and caught fire," said Sergei Izvolky, the spokesman for the Russian aviation agency.

The Emergencies Ministry said 44 passengers and six crew members were aboard the evening flight from Moscow and all had been killed. Kazan, a city of about 1.1 million and the capital of the Tatarstan republic, is about 450 miles east of the capital.


The ministry released a list of the dead, which included Irek Minnikhanov, the son of Tatarstan's governor, and Alexander Antonov, who headed the Tatarstan branch of the Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB.

Some Russian air crashes have been blamed on the use of aging aircraft, but industry experts point to a number of other problems, including poor crew training, crumbling airports, lax government controls, and widespread neglect of safety in the pursuit of profits.

The Emergencies Ministry released photographs from the nighttime scene showing parts of the aircraft and debris scattered across the ground. Ambulances lined up in front of the airport building.

It was not clear why the plane's first landing attempt was unsuccessful. Boeing said it would provide assistance to the investigation into the cause.

"Boeing's thoughts are with those affected by the crash," the company said in a statement on its website.

A journalist who said she had flown on the same aircraft from Kazan to Moscow's Domodedovo airport earlier in the day told Channel One state television that the landing in Moscow had been frightening because of a strong vibration during the final minutes of the flight.


"When we were landing it was not clear whether there was a strong wind, although in Moscow the weather was fine, or some kind of technical trouble or problem with the flight," said Lenara Kashafutdinova. "We were blown in different directions, the plane was tossed around. The man sitting next to me was white as a sheet."

President Vladimir Putin ordered that a commission be formed to investigate Sunday's crash, his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told local news agencies.

Aeroflot, Russian's main national carrier, has a fleet of modern aircraft, but much of the country's regional airline fleet is aging. Officials said the Boeing 737 that crashed was 23 years old.

Tatarstan is one of the wealthier regions of Russia because of its large deposits of oil. It is also is a major manufacturing center, producing trucks, helicopters, and planes. About half of the people who live in the republic are ethnic Tatars, most of whom are Muslims.

Because of the city's growing economic importance, there are plans for construction of a high-speed rail line to Moscow. The train trip now takes more than 11 hours.

Russia's last fatal airliner crash was in December, when a Russian-made Tupolev careered off the runway at Moscow's Vnukovo airport and slammed into the slope of a highway. Investigators say equipment failure caused the crash, which killed five people.