KAZAN RUSSIA – Video broadcast by Russian television stations on Monday showed a Russian plane going down at a near-vertical angle and exploding on the tarmac in Kazan in a giant fireball.
Sunday’s crash in the central Russian city of Kazan killed all 50 people on board. The brief video broadcast by Russian TV stations has been confirmed as authentic to The Associated Press by the emergency press service at Kazan airport.
The video emerged as investigators were combing through the charred fragments of the Boeing 737, trying to determine the cause of the deadly crash.
The plane belonging to Tatarstan Airlines was flying in from Moscow, 720 km to the west, when it crashed while making its second attempt to land at its home port in Kazan, capital of the oil-rich province of Tatarstan. The son of the governor and the chief of the local branch of Russia’s main security agency were among the victims.
The plane, which departed from Moscow, crashed on its second landing attempt, said Alexander Poltinin, head of the local branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee. He said investigators are trying to determine why the crew aborted its first landing.
Poltinin said the investigators are looking into the possibility of pilot error or an equipment failure.
The air traffic controller at the Kazan airport who contacted the plane before during its approach said the crew told him they weren’t ready to land but didn’t specify the problem.
The plane hit the ground and exploded on impact, littering the tarmac with burning fragments. Poltinin said it could take weeks to identify the remains of some victims.
Russian emergency ministry officials said that a British national, Donna Bull, was among the victims.
The investigators have found both of the plane’s black boxes, which contain data on its systems performance and recordings of the crew conversations and are essential to the probe.
Magomed Tolboyev, a highly decorated Russian test pilot, said on Rossiya television that it wasn’t immediately clear why the crew was unable to land on its first try in good weather, saying it could be linked to a system failure or crew error.
The plane was built 23 years ago and had seen service with seven other carriers before being commissioned by Tatarstan Airlines.
In 2001, it was damaged in a landing accident in Brazil that hurt no one. The aircraft has been in service with Tatarstan Airlines since 2008. The company insisted it was in good condition for the flight.
The carrier has had a good safety record, but appears to have run into financial problems recently. Its personnel went on strike in September over back wages, and the Kazan airport authority has gone to arbitration to claim what it said was Tatarstan Airlines’ debt for servicing its planes.
Investigators on Monday started looking through the company’s records as part of the crash probe.
Industry experts have blamed some of recent plane crashes in Russia on a cost-cutting mentality at some of its carriers, with safety sometimes neglected in the run for profits. Insufficient pilot training and lax government controls over industry also have been named among factors affecting flight safety.
Russia’s last deadly airliner crash was in December, when a Russian-made Tupolev belonging to the Red Wings airline careered off the runway at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, rolled across a snowy field and slammed into the slope of a highway, killing five of its eight-member crew.
A 2011 crash in Yaroslavl that killed 44 people, including a professional hockey team, was blamed on pilot error.