41 people were killed Sunday after a Russian Aeroflot airliner made a hard emergency landing and caught fire at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, officials said.
Russia’s Investigative Committee spokeswoman Elena Markovskaya told a news conference late Sunday that 41 people had died and 37 others had survived. However, Russian Health Minister said that 38 people had survived without giving a death toll. The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.
The victims included one member of the crew and at least two teenagers, according to the Investigative Committee.
The plane, a one-year-old Sukhoi Superjet, departed from Sheremetyevo for Murmansk but shortly after taking off requested an emergency landing due to being struck by lightning, the state-run TASS news agency cited crew members as saying.
TASS reports one of the passengers killed was a U.S. citizen Jeremy Brooks.
Six passengers were taken to the hospital, TASS cited a Health Ministry source as saying.
Interfax reported that the tail was completely burned and said a rescue team was trying to find survivors in that part of the plane.
Aeroflot said in a brief statement that technical problems forced the jet to turn around, but did not elaborate.
Some news reports cited sources as saying the plane bounced several times during the landing. The plane apparently did not have time to jettison fuel before the emergency landing, news reports said, ultimately killing 41.
“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.
A law enforcement source told the Interfax news agency that the plane gave a distress signal after departure, then tried to make an emergency landing. After a first attempt failed, the aircraft was able to make a landing on the second try.
About the Sukhoi SSJ100
The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia’s troubled aerospace industry was on the rise. However, the plane’s reputation was troubled after defects were found in some horizontal stabilizers.
The plane’s manufacturer, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, said the plane in Sunday’s accident had received maintenance at the beginning of April. Aeroflot said the pilot had some 1,400 hours of experience flying the plane.
The incident caused at least 53 flights to be delayed and one canceled, according to Interfax. Airport officials told the news agency that the airport was operating “in a limited mode with one runway.
The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft but also is used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico. It is mostly used by Aeroflot.
This is the second deadly incident involving the plane. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 aboard.