Four die in Moscow plane crash
A Russian passenger plane with up to 12 people on board split into three pieces after sliding off a runway and crashing into a highway outside a Moscow airport today, officials said.
Four of the 12 crew on board were killed.
A photograph posted on the internet showed a wrecked plane on a highway outside Vnukovo airport, with smoke billowing from the back end and only a mangled part of the front half visible.
"After a hard landing, the plane split into three pieces," Yelena Krylova, chief spokeswoman for the airport, said in televised comments.
An Emergency Services spokesman said four people died of injuries after the crash and four others were in hospital. Police said 12 crew members were on board, but no passengers.
"The plane went off the runway, broke through the barrier and caught fire," police spokesman Gennady Bogachyov said.
The Tupolev-204 passenger plane was operated by the Russian airliner Red Wings and travelling from Czech Republic, Krylova said.
Rubble from the crash was scattered across the highway and the plane's wings were torn from the fuselage, witnesses said.
"We saw how the plane skidded off the runway ... The nose, where business class is, broke off and a man fell out," a witness, who gave his name as Alexei, said. "We helped him get into a mini-bus to take him to the hospital."
Russian investigators said preliminary findings pointed to pilot error as the cause of the crash.
Russia and other former Soviet republics had some of the world's worst air-traffic safety records last year, with a total accident rate almost three times the world average, the International Air Transport Association said.