Moscow: A passenger jet traveling from Moscow to the Ural Mountains city of Perm crashed as it was preparing to land early Sunday, killing all 88 people aboard, officials said.
Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said there was no indication of terrorism in the crash of the Boeing-737-500, which went down on the outskirts of the city of Perm around 3:15 am.
Flight 821, operated by an Aeroflot subsidiary, carried 82 passengers and six crew members, Aeroflot said in a statement. Among those killed were citizens from the United States, France, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Latvia.
The plane was on its approach to land amid low cloudcover when it crashed into an unpopulated area of the city, just a few hundred meters (yards) from residential buildings. Aeroflot officials said the plane was circling at about 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) in “difficult weather conditions” when it lost contact with ground dispatchers.
The most likely cause of the crash was technical failure, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors’ Investigative Committee, said in televised comments.
A section of rail track was destroyed in the crash, which scattered paper, clothing, life preservers and parts of engines for several hundred meters (yards) along the track. Sections of the plane’s fuselage reading “Aeroflot” and “Boeing” lay askew on the rails.
Part of the Trans-Siberian railway was also shut down as a result of the rail damage, said Alexander Burataeva, a spokesman for the national railroad company.
Officials said there were no deaths on the ground; investigators had found the planes’ “black box” flight recorders and were working to analyze them.
Russia and the other former Soviet republics have some the world’s worst air traffic safety records, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Experts have blamed weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality among many carriers that affects safety.
No problems were reported with the 15-year-old jet when it was last inspected at the beginning of 2008, Aeroflot Deputy Director Lev Koshlyakov said.
Sunday’s crash was the second involving a Boeing 737 in the former Soviet Union in the past month. A Boeing flying from the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan to Iran crashed shortly after takeoff on 24 August, killing 64 of the 90 people on board.
The pilot of that plane has been detained by prosecutors in connection with the investigation, officials said this week.