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Russian plane fire: Investigators recover flight recorders

06.05.2019

Flight recorders from a plane that caught fire during an emergency landing at a Moscow airport have been retrieved. At least 41 people were killed, with officials probing whether equipment or human error were to blame.

Russia's main investigative body on Monday said both flight recorders had been recovered from the Sukhoi passenger plane that caught fire while making an emergency landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. At least 41 people, including two children, lost their lives.

The Sukhoi SSJ100 turned back to Moscow during a flight to Murmansk for unspecified reasons. Video on Russian television showed fire bursting from the plane's underside as it landed.

Despite the incident, Russian Transport Minister Yevgeny Dietrich said Russia saw no reason to ground its domestic-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft.

Dietrich told reporters that 33 passengers and four crew members survived, while six of the survivors are in serious condition and receiving treatment.

'I wouldn't fly on this type of airplane'

Vadim Lukashevich, an independent aviation expert who previously worked as an engineer at Sukhoi, told DW that there have been safety concerns about this type of aircraft.

Ever since international sanctions were implemented against Russia in 2014, it has become difficult to obtain parts for the planes.

"I wouldn't fly on this type of airplane," Lukashevich told DW.

He added that if there is an accident with a plane in military aviation, that plane model is immediately grounded — the same cannot be said for passenger planes.

"In civilian aviation we don't do that because there are the airlines to think about, the profits, there are commercial interests at play. And that means we don't stop using the planes," Lukashevich said, adding: "I think that there can never be enough security measures in civilian aviation."

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Cause of fire unknown

Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement that investigators are looking into inexperienced pilots, equipment failure and bad weather as possible causes for the disaster.

"Investigators have obtained the voice and parametric flight recorders, and collected fuel samples ... and recordings from surveillance cameras," the Investigative Committee said.

Russian state media reported that a lightning bolt appeared to strike the aircraft before the crash landing. Moscow was experiencing stormy weather at the time of the incident.

Russian media have also quoted the pilot as saying a lightning strike caused the plane to lose its radio communications, leading to the emergency landing.

Videos taken after the crash also appeared to show some of the survivors carrying hand luggage while leaving the plane, raising questions about whether doing so might have impeded the evacuation.

The aircraft involved in the incident had been in service since 2017 and was last inspected in April, state news agency TASS reported, citing aviation authorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the victims' loved ones and said the investigation "should be as thorough as possible," according to the Kremlin.

DW's Moscow correspondent, Emily Sherwin, contributed reporting.

Russian officials have not yet said what technical problems caused the plane to turn around

rs, law/rt (AP, Reuters)

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