Russian plane crash kills 143
MOSCOW, Russia -- All 143 people on board a Russian passenger plane were killed when it crashed and burned Tuesday in Siberia, officials said.
The plane went down about 34 kilometres (21 miles) from the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which lies 4,200 kilometres (2,600 miles) east of Moscow, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
The Tupolev 154 aircraft, with 133 passengers and 10 crew members on board, dropped off controllers' radar screens about 2:10 a.m. local time on Wednesday (1710 GMT on Tuesday).
Russian government officials said no one survived the crash. About 70 rescuers are on the scene and the government was flying more to the scene.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has assigned a commission to look into what caused the crash.
The plane, belonging to Vladivostok Avia company, was flying east from Yekaterinburg in south central Russia to Vladivostok, a port on the Pacific coast. It had been due to stop at Irkutsk, about half way through the trip.
There were conflicting reports about when the crash took place.
The deputy head of the Emergency Ministry said the plane was circling the Irkustk airport when it crashed. Russian state television, however, reported that the plane crashed as it was taking off from the airport.
Russia's RIA news agency quoted witnesses describing a large explosion in an area where many locals have dachas, or small country homes, not far from Lake Baikal.
Officials said that the plane crashed into a wooded area and that it was unlikely that anyone on the ground was killed or injured.
The three-engine Tupolev 154 is the aging workhorse of Russia's commercial fleet, carrying about half of all Russian air passengers. It was designed as the Soviet counterpart to the Boeing 727 and the European-made Trident, but with the added ability to operate from short, rough runways. About 1,000 were produced.
The plane has been involved in 28 air disasters since it was created in 1968.
Vladivostok Avia (in Russian)
Aviation Safety Network: Tupelov 154 incidents
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