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Russian TU-154 Crashes Into Black Sea

Aired October 4, 2001 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, we're watching a developing story at this hour that has further heightened fears of terrorism, though no such link. We should stress that, no such link has been established at this point.

But a Russian airliner flying from Israel and Tel Aviv to Russia, eastern Siberia, has crashed into the Black Sea. More than 70 people on board.

Israel has canceled takeoffs from Ben Gurion's International Airport just east of Tel Aviv, that's where the flight originated.

Moscow demanding a full investigation into the cause of that. Russia already had been concerned about possible terrorist retribution for its support of the U.S. coalition against Osama bin Laden.

But for more on this, live to Moscow and our bureau chief, Jill Dougherty, who's tracking the latest. What are they saying there at this hour, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, the latest is coming actually from President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin confirming that Mr. Putin this afternoon in a meeting, said it could be terrorism. He is not concretely saying that is it, the reason for this crash, but he is saying that that possibility of terrorism cannot be excluded.

And just to wrap up the latest details that we know, this was a weekly charter carrying Israelis back to Russia. There are a million former Soviet and former Russian citizens in Israel. This was a regular weekly charter, taking, we understand, 77 people total. That would be 66 passengers, 11 crew, from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk.

It crashed after an explosion. That fact has been confirmed by the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Another pilot in the area, from an Armenian plane, saw an explosion and then the plane hit the water. And now there are search and rescue crews on the site. The most important thing is that they are trying to find out what caused this.

The latest information on the plane is that this Tupelov 154, which is kind of like a 727, was reportedly built in 1991 and was overhauled in 1995. There have been some technical problems with Tupelov 154s, but in this case, with news of an explosion, it would seem to be a much more serious event. President Putin has created a task force, that task force is now looking for any type of clues that they can get. President Putin has directed them to look for any shred of evidence. They have divers who are going to go down and try to find the black box. And also search and rescue to find anyone who might be left from that crash. Bill?

HEMMER: Jill, just to be clear, the eye witnesses describing this explosion; this happened, they are saying, while the plane was in the air, not when it hit the water, correct?

DOUGHERTY: Correct. The plane was apparently at 11,000 meters, I believe, and that is when they saw the explosion that apparently sent it into the water. There are other reports that there was another explosion as it hit the water, but you might expect that that would happen, since a plane going at that speed would obviously break apart.

But the initial reason for this is the explosion. And the question, Bill, of course, is what caused that explosion? We won't know that until they get more information with the black box.

HEMMER: Also, Jill, this was not an El Al flight, which we know through history has had very tight security going in and out of Israel.

But what security measures are taken for this particular airline?

DOUGHERTY: Well, from Israel, the reports are that they had the usual security measures taken. It's unclear, this was Sibir Air, Siberia Air, a Russian flight.

But presumably it should have been conducted the same way that any flight coming out of Israel would, which is with very heightened security.

HEMMER: Jill Dougherty reporting from Moscow. Jill, we'll check in throughout the morning here. Many thanks to you.

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