Russian passenger jet crashes near Moscow, 71 feared killed; burning debris seen falling from sky

MOSCOW: A plane operated by Saratov Airlines crashed in the Moscow region on Sunday, likely killing all 71 people on board, Russian news agency Interfax said, citing a source in the emergency services.

The Antonov An-148 plane operated by the domestic Saratov Airlines was flying to Orsk, a city in the Urals, and crashed in the Ramensky district outside Moscow. Russian news agencies reported 65 passengers and 6 crew were on board.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said fragments of the aircraft had been found. News agencies said witnesses in the village of Argunovo saw a burning plane falling from the sky.

Flight tracking service Flightradar24 tweeted: "Saratov Airlines flight #6W703 was performed with a 7 years old Antonov An-148 aircraft with registration number RA-61704... Flight #6W703 took off from Moscow at 11:22 UTC time and 5 minutes later we tracked it descenting with 3300 feet per minute before the signal was lost.."

"The speed and altitude graph for flight #6W703 show a descent from 6200 feet to 3200 feet during the last minute before the ADS-B signal was lost about 20 km south-east of Domodedovo Airport," it added.

A source from Russia's emergency services told Interfax that the 71 people on board "had no chance" of survival.

The same news agency reported that the wreckage of the plane was spread over a wide area around the crash site.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash. The Russian Transport Ministry was considering various possible reasons, including weather conditions and a pilot error, Interfax said.

The Russian-made plane was seven years-old and bought by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago.

A source at Domodedovo, Moscow's second largest airport, told agencies that the plane disappeared from radars within two minutes of take off.

The Russian transport minister was on his way to the crash site, agencies reported. The transport ministry said several causes for the crash are being considered, including weather conditions and human error.

The governor of the Orenburg region, where the plane was flying to, told Russian media that "more than 60 people" onboard the plane were from the region.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into Saratov Airlines following the crash.

 

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PTI