Engine failure blamed for Russia plane crash

16th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Still, pilot was acting oddly, officials say.

Moscow -- Russian investigators ruled out a terrorist attack as the cause of a plane crash that killed all 88 people on board Sunday, saying an engine fault was to blame.

The Aeroflot Boeing 737 crashed near Russia's Ural Mountains as it readied to land in the city of Perm on a flight from Moscow. Twenty-one foreigners and seven children were among the dead.

Investigators linked the crash to technical failure and a fire in the starboard engine. Transport minister Igor Levitin said late Sunday he had no information to suggest the crash was caused by a terrorist attack.

Pilot error, however, could not be completely ruled. A Perm airport dispatcher told Russian media the doomed plane's pilot had violated regulations.

President Dmitry Medvedev opened a meeting with industry heads on Monday with a moment of silence to commemorate the victims.

Levitin ruled out earlier reports that the airliner had burst into flames in mid-air. But residents said they were jolted awake when the plane slammed to the earth in the early morning, burning just meters from their houses.

The fallen wreckage blocked a section of Russia's Trans-Siberian railway.

Aeroflot confirmed there were no survivors. Among the victims were citizens of Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Germany, France, Switzerland, Latvia, Turkey and Italy. Seven children died in the tragedy.

US embassy officials denied reports an American citizen had also been aboard the flight.

Among the dead was General Gennady Troshev, a government advisor and a key general in Russia's war in Chechnya, the country's transportation ministry was cited as saying by the news agency Interfax.

Irina Andrianova, spokeswoman for the Civil Defense Ministry, said the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control at around 1,800 meters off the ground. The plane exploded into flames upon hitting the ground at 5 a.m. (2300 GMT), she added.

Flight controller Irek Bikbov said the plane's pilot was flying counter to landing orders.

"He was acting oddly, not following my orders," he said.

Aeroflot has worked hard to reform its previous negative image, and has fought ongoing concerns over its ageing fleet and airline safety regulations.

Airline chief Valery Okulov announced he was stripping Aeroflot Nord, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, of the right to use its name from Monday onward.

The plane's flight recorders have been recovered and will take two to three weeks to be analyzed. Russia's Echo Moskvye radio said US experts from plane maker Boeing had joined the investigation efforts in the country's worst plane accident in two years.


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