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4 dead after fire spreads on Russian passenger plane

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Fire destroys Russian plane before takeoff
  • Russian pop music group was on flight
  • Plane's fuel tanks explode after passengers evacuated, official says
  • An engine catches fire shortly before takeoff
  • Authorities launch a criminal investigation

Moscow (CNN) -- Four people were killed Saturday and more than 43 others were injured, four critically, after a Russian passenger jet caught fire shortly before takeoff, authorities said.

One of the engines aboard the Tu-154B-2 caught fire as the plane taxied toward the runway in Russia's Siberian city of Surgut, Russia's Investigation Committee said in a statement on its website. The blaze quickly spread throughout the cabin, forcing passengers to evacuate as the aircraft became engulfed in flames.

After the passengers evacuated, the fuel tanks exploded, causing massive devastation to the aircraft, a spokeswoman for the local branch of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said on state television.

Photos on state-run newswire RIA-Novosti's website showed only the tail of the plane recognizable amid a huge plume of black smoke.

The aircraft, which was destined for Moscow, about 1,800 miles away, was carrying 135 people -- 117 passengers and 18 crew members, the Russian Health and Social Development Ministry said. Earlier, it was reported that 124 people were on board.

A popular Russian pop group, Na-Na, was on the flight.

The plane was flown by Kogalymavia Airlines, according to RIA-Novosti. The aircraft's last overhaul was in 1998, according to Russian state television.

A pre-flight check found it to be in good condition, state TV said.

Authorities have launched a criminal investigation based on charges of violating transport and fire safety rules, the investigative committee said.

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko contributed to this report