Black Sea crash: 10 bodies and large part of fuselage found

Transport minister says terrorism not ruled out but is unlikely to be the cause of crash

A Russian plane carrying servicemen and members of a renowned military choir and dance ensemble, the Alexandrov Ensemble, has crashed into the Black Sea while en route to Syria. Video: REUTERS

 

Russia mounted a major search-and-recovery operation in the Black Sea on Monday for the victims and the fuselage of a military passenger plane that crashed a day earlier, killing all 92 people on board, including dozens of members of a storied army choir.

The most likely area where the plane plunged into the water moments after taking off from the southwestern resort city of Sochi has been identified, Lt Gen Viktor N Bondarev, commander of the Russian air force, said at a news conference.

Lt Gen Bondarev said he did not expect the plane’s fin, where the flight recorders were located, to be as damaged as the fuselage, raising hopes that the recorders might be intact.

A large chunk of the fuselage was located Monday on the seabed about a mile offshore, initially by sonar and then by divers, the Ministry of Emergency Situations announced.

Not ruled out

The transportation minister, Maxim Sokolov, who is leading a commission looking into the crash, said terrorism had not been ruled out, but that it was unlikely to be the cause of the crash of the Tupolev 154, which was flying members of the choir and others to Syria for a concert for troops stationed near Latakia.

“As far as we know, the main versions do not include the terrorist act, so we base our work on the premise that technical malfunction or pilot’s error caused the catastrophe,” Mr Sokolov said.

Some analysts have pointed to the possibility of terrorism, citing the sudden manner in which the airplane disappeared from radar screens and the absence of an emergency call from the pilot.

At the same time, officials emphasised that the airplane should have been technically sound because it underwent repairs and resumed service in December 2014, and the pilot was experienced and had 1,900 hours of flying time at the control of Tupolev 154s.

Search efforts involving 45 ships and 135 divers continued on Monday. The bodies of 10 victims, as well as dozens of body parts that have been recovered, were flown to Moscow for identification, Russian officials said at the news conference.

New York Times