TWENTY-EIGHT people on board a passenger plane have been killed after it crashed into a coastal cliff while it was preparing to land in Russia’s Far East in poor visibility.
The An-26 plane with 22 passengers and six crew members, flying from the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the town of Palana on the Okhotsk Sea coast, missed a scheduled communication and disappeared from radar as it was on approach for landing.
Emergency officials first said they had located the An-26 crash site in the Sea of Okhotsk.
But it has now has emerged it crashed into a cliff.
Sources in Kamchakta said they did not expect to find survivors in the An-26 wreckage.
Some debris was in the sea, and some on land, according to reports.
The plane is believed to have failed to clear a high cliff on the Sea of Okhotsk.
Parts of the plane’s stabiliser were found on a hill, while the tail [was located] on a cliff, said the report.
Other parts of the aircraft were “washed into the sea”.
Rescuers recorded a weak radio signal off the coast of Kamchatka, possibly from an emergency radio beacon of the missing An-26, an informed source told Interfax.
Ships from the Russian Pacific Fleet have been sent to the area in the Shelikhov Gulf.
RT in Russian Telegram channel said: “One part of the An-26 fuselage is located on the slope of Pyatibratka Hill, the second is seen in the sea about four kilometres from the coast.”
This is attributed to a Pacific Fleet source.
The Federal Air Transport Agency told reporters that the crash site was discovered between two and four miles from the runway at Palana.
The search is hampered by darkness and a tide which has washed away some of the wreckage, say reports.
We have found the wreckage of the plane. Where and under what circumstances, I cannot say
Aleksey Khrabrov, Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise
Mash media cited ambulance sources as saying no survivors were expected.
The head of the Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, Aleksey Khrabrov, said: “We have found the wreckage of the plane. Where and under what circumstances, I cannot say.”
The plane, which belonged to a company called Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, missed a scheduled communication and disappeared from the radars, local emergency officials said.
The An-26 was coming in for a landing when contact was six miles away from Palana’s airport.
Valentina Glazova, a spokeswoman for the local transport prosecutor’s office, told AFP new agency: “Search and rescue efforts are underway.
“All that is known at this time, what has been possible to establish, is that communication with the plane was interrupted and it did not land.”
Russian news agencies quoted local officials as saying there were 28 people on board, including six crew.
It is reported that there were two children among the passengers.
A search had been launched involving at least two helicopters and rescue workers were on standby, the reports said.
The head of the Palana village administration, Olga Mokhireva, 42, was reported to have been on board.
The pilot was named as Dmitry Nikiforov, and the co-pilot Alexander Anisimov, 27.
An Mi8 helicopter has also been helping the search.
Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered a special commission to find out what had happened to the plane.
A criminal case was also launched into its fate, a normal measure when a plane goes missing or crashes in Russia.
Russia, once notorious for plane accidents, has improved its air traffic safety record in recent years.
But poor aircraft maintenance and lax safety standards still persist, and the country has seen several deadly air accidents in recent years.
A hotline has been set up for relatives who will be offered psychological assistance.
The An-26 that vanished today is a twin-engined turboprop civilian and military transport aircraft, designed and produced in the Soviet Union from 1969 to 1986.
In August, a South West Aviation An-26 turboprop aircraft crashed while taking off from Juba Airport in Juba, South Sudan.
A month later an An-26 hit the ground while coming into land near the town of Chuguyev in the east of Ukraine, killing 22 of the 28 people on board.
The last major air accident in Russia took place in May 2019, when a Sukhoi Superjet belonging to the flag carrier airline Aeroflot crash-landed and caught fire on the runway of a Moscow airport, killing 41 people.
In February 2018, a Saratov Airlines An-148 aircraft crashed near Moscow shortly after take-off, killing all 71 people on board.
An investigation later concluded that the accident was caused by human error.
Russia also frequently experiences non-fatal air incidents that result in re-routed flights and emergency landings, usually stemming from technical issues.
In August 2019, a Ural Airlines flight carrying more than 230 people made a miracle landing in a Moscow corn field after a flock of birds were sucked into the engines shortly after take-off.
In February 2020, a Utair Boeing 737 carrying 100 people crash-landed on its belly in northern Russia after its landing system malfunctioned. All of the flight’s passengers and its crew survived.
Flying in Russia can also be dangerous in the vast country’s isolated regions with difficult weather conditions such as the Arctic and the Far East.
More to follow…
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