At least 13 people, including two children, have died after a harrowing 45-minute flight on a Russian Aeroflot plane that was forced to make a fiery emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
The TASS news agency quoted the Investigative Committee of Russia as saying that several more people remain unaccounted for after the pilot was forced to turn the plane back shortly after takeoff on May 5 because of an engine fire.
"Investigators soon will begin interviewing victims, eyewitnesses, airport staff and the airline carrier, as well as other persons responsible for the operation of the aircraft," Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.
Interfax reported that the plane failed in its first attempt to land because it was still traveling at high speed, and then its automated equipment failed on the second approach, forcing the pilot into a hard landing.
Aeroflot said in a statement only that “there are victims, the number of which is being specified and emergency medical care is being provided to all those in need. Passengers left the aircraft on emergency ramps.”
It gave no further details, saying only that a commission has been established “to investigate the causes and circumstances of the incident.”
Video taken by witnesses at the airport showed the Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100 aircraft engulfed in flames as it skidded to a halt with a huge plume of black smoke rising above its tail. Moments later, passengers could be seen plunging down the plane's inflatable evacuation slides and running across the airport's tarmac and grass, some with their luggage in hand.
According to RIA Novosti, there were 78 passengers on board the plane. TASS reported 73 passengers and six crew members.
There also was conflicting information about the number of victims, with TASS quoting a source as saying that at least 10 people were injured. Interfax said six people were injured, while Baza reported 26 victims.
It was not clear what caused the fire on flight SU-1492, which left Moscow for a 2.5-hour flight to the northern Russian city of Murmansk.
Flightradar24 tracking service showed that the aircraft made two circles around Moscow and landed after flying for about 45 minutes.
"According to preliminary data, several people were hurt. At least 10 ambulances have been dispatched to the site," the TASS news agency quoted a source in the local emergency services as saying.
This is the second fatal accident involving the SSJ100, which is widely used in Russia. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 people on board.