Oslo, 29 August 1996 (RFE/RL) - All 141 people aboard a Russian charter plane were killed this morning when the plane apparently crashed into a mountain shortly before it was supposed to land at a remote Arctic island airport, say Norwegian officials.
First aid staff returning from the crash site found no survivors, local government official Kjetil Hansen told reporters
The regional Vnukovo Airlines Tupolev 154 was on the way from Moscow to Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island of Spitzbergen. All of the 129 passengers were coal miners and their families on the way to Spitzbergen. A crew of 12 was also on board.
Russia runs a coal mine near the town of Barentsburg under an agreement dating back to the 1920's. The agreement granted Norway ownership of the island.
Finn Bjornar Hansen of the Bodoe Rescue Center said the control tower at Longyearbyen lost contact with the plane about 10:15 Central European Time as the plane was about to land. Weather at the time was bad, with a low cloud cover.
Norwegian officials said they had not picked up any emergency signals. Hansen said it appeared the plane slammed directly into the mountain during its approach to the airport, but it was too early to know for sure.