MOSCOW, June 21 (Xinhua) — A Russian passenger jet apparently clipped a power line and crashed in heavy fog on a highway in northwestern Russia, killing 44 people and injuring eight others, officials said.
The Tu-134 passenger plane, belonging to the RusAir airline, crash landed on a highway about one km away from Petrozavodsk airport at about 11:55 p.m. Moscow time (1955 GMT) Monday.
The Karelie branch of the Russian Emergencies Ministry said radio contact with the pilot was lost at 11:40 p.m. local time (1940 GMT). The plane’s flight data recorders have been recovered.
The Emergencies Ministry said in a statement on its website that 44 people were killed, including four with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship. Eight survivors, including a mother, her 9-year old son and 14-year old daughter, were hospitalized in critical condition in Petrozavodsk.
Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Oksana Semyonova said the plane was carrying 52 people, including nine crew members.
The official list of victims included a Swedish citizen, a Dutchman and two Ukrainians.
Petrozavodsk is in Karelie province, near the Finnish border, about 640 km northwest of Moscow.
Russia’s top investigative agency said bad weather, pilot error or a technical malfunction might have contributed to the crash.
The fuselage of the jet, which took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, caught fire and was destroyed during the landing.
Russian television stations broadcast footage of charred plane fragments strewn around the highway, less than one kilometer short of the runway. Landing gear jutting out from the ground was the only recognizable plane part.
The state news network Rossia-24 broadcast footage of a woman showing video she shot on her phone of the plane burning on the highway. A nearby road sign indicating the way to the airport stood undamaged.
Nikolai Fedotov, chairman of the Commission for Life and Residents’ Safety in Karelie, told reporters the plane may have hit a power line as it was landing.
“The Tu-134 hit a power line due to pilot error, cut it, depriving the runway of power,” said Alexei Kuzmitsky, head of the Petrozavodsk airport.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered condolences to the victims’ families and sent his transport minister to oversee the investigation. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was due Tuesday at the Paris Air Show to support dozens of Russian firms seeking sales contracts.
The Tu-134, along with its larger sibling the Tu-154, has been the workhorse of Soviet and Russian civil aviation since the 1960s. The model that crashed was built in 1980, had a capacity of 68 people and a range of about 2,000 km.