Russian Plane Crash in Siberia Kills 31 People

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On Monday, a Russian passenger plane crashed after takeoff—killing at least 31 of the 43 people on board.

The accident happened about a mile from the airport in the western Siberian city of Tyumen—about 1000 miles from Moscow. The plane was on its way to Surgut, an oil town in the northeast.

Thirteen survivors were taken to hospital in a helicopter. One died and at least five of the others are in critical condition.

The plane broke into two, with only the tail and back section of the fuselage visible—lying in the snow-covered field.

[Yuri Alekhin, Emergencies Ministry Regional Head]:
"We arrived at the scene within 15 to 17 minutes. As you can see, it's practically impossible to reach the site. So we got as far as we could, then went the rest of the way on foot, and started pulling away the wreckage by hand."

Rescuers found the "black box" flight recorder.

[Yuri Alekhin, Emergencies Ministry Regional Head]:
"Contact was lost with the plane just over three minutes after take off."

It's not clear what caused the French-built ATR 72 to crash with 39 passengers and four crew on board.

UTair said on its website the twin-engine, turbo-prop plane was trying to make an emergency landing soon after take off.

[Vladimir Markin, Russian Investigation Committee Official]:
"The first versions being examined in the preliminary investigation are as follows—a technical failure in the plane, pilot error, or a mistake by the ground crew...there were 40 tickets sold. One of these passengers did not get on the flight...there were no under-aged passengers on the flight."

This is the latest in a chain of airline disasters in Russia. It's the worst crash since a Yak-42 plane smashed into a riverbank after takeoff last September—killing 44 people and wiping out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team.