ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A top Kazakh official says authorities initially are looking at a possible “technical malfunction” or pilot error in the crash of a Bek Air plane that killed 12 of the 98 passengers and crew aboard early on December 27.
Roman Sklyar, a deputy prime minister, said a special government commission was being sent to the site to carry out an investigation into the accident, which occurred as the Fokker 100 plane attempted to take off from the Almaty airport en route to the capital, Nur-Sultan.
He cautioned, though, that the investigation was in the early stages and no cause had yet been pinpointed.
Sklyar said eight people died at the scene, while two died at the airport and two others at the hospital. The pilot was killed in the crash.
Sklyar added that 49 people were hospitalized, 18 in serious condition.
"Either this is pilot error or there were technical reasons," Sklyar said at a press conference in Almaty on December 27.
"The aircraft split into two parts. Most of the passengers who died were in the front part."
Kazakhstan on December 28 observed a day of mourning to honor the victims of the crash.
In the capital, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan's largest flag was at half-staff for the day of mourning while officials made urgent appeals for blood donations to help the dozens of injured survivors.
Russia and China were among the countries to join the European Union and the Vatican in expressing condolences to the former Soviet Central Asian republic.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development, the plane was unable to get to a significant height and crashed into a two-story building.
Four foreigners were aboard the plane, officials said -- two from Ukraine and one each from China and Kyrgyzstan. They all survived, Kazakh authorities said.
Bek Air, which operates a fleet of Fokker 100 planes, said it has canceled some 100 flights from December 27-31 as the investigation into the cause of the craft proceeds.