Flight from Armenian capital Yerevan crashes near Sochi

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Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A similar airplane, the Airbus A320-200

An Armavia Airbus 320 passenger plane flying from Armenia's capital, Yerevan, to the city of Sochi in southern Russia has crashed into the Black Sea. The jet was found 6 km from the coast and carried a total of 113 people. Among the passengers were 8 crew and 6 children. Controllers lost contact with the plane at 0215 local time (Tuesday 2215 UTC).

Rescuers have found the corpses of a woman and a girl and another 12 body parts at the site of Wednesday's crash of Armenia's Airbus A-320 plane off Russia's Black Sea coast, a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor General's Office told Interfax. Other reports say that at least 25 bodies have been found.

There were 77 Armenian citizens, 26 Russian citizens, 1 Ukrainian and 1 Georgian citizen on board of the Armenian air liner, Armenian Civil Aviation Department head Artyom Movsisian told on a news conference.

"Most of the Russian citizens are of Armenian origin," Movsisian said.

"Rescue efforts are being hampered by deteriorating weather conditions, heavy rain and rough seas," a spokesman for the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said.

"The fragments were found six km (3.7 miles) from the shore near the airport of Adler. The search operation continues," said Beltsov. The location of the crash site has been ascertained by a numerous fragments and life vests, and a large oil slick.

"The only thing [we] know is that when the crew asked for permission to land, the air controller in Sochi responded that bad weather meant this was not yet possible," Gayane Davtyan, head of Armenia's civilian aviation authority said. "Contact with the crew was lost at 600 meters, when the plane went to circle for a second time."

The cause of the tragedy remains unclear, but the investigators are pursuing two main versions: bad weather conditions and poor maintenance.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office believes terrorism can be ruled out as a factor in the A-320 plane crash near the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday morning.

"We don't have any information that could indicate a possible terrorist attack on board the plane," Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel told Interfax on Wednesday.

An official from the regional department of the Emergency Situations Ministry in southern Russia said "apparently there were malfunctions on board, as the pilots were making another attempt to land at the Adler airport."

"The plane was in an ideal technical condition, the crew was well qualified," said the airline's deputy commercial director, Andrei Aghajanov. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

In the area where the plane crashed, more rain is expected in the next hours and the water temperature is currently between 8 to 10 degrees celsius.

The Russian and Armenian presidents have announced on Wednesday that Friday, May 5th, would be a day of mourning in remembrance of the 113 people that died in the crash.

The worst crash involving an two-engine A-320, which was first built in 1984 and remains the most popular Airbus on the market, occurred in August 2000, when a Gulf Air plane crashed off Bahrain on a flight from Cairo, killing all 143 people on board. The Airbus A320 is a short-to-medium range commercial passenger aircraft and a total of 328 people have been killed in earlier A320 accidents.

About 20 boats and a Be-200 amphibious aircraft are involved in the recovery operation, emergency services said, adding that two more Be-200s would fly to the scene if necessary. A group of rescuers from the Russian emergency ministry is expected to fly to the crash site in the next few hours.

Sources

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