At least three people have been killed after a regional Russian airliner caught fire and exploded at an airport in the eastern Siberian city of Surgut. The Tupolev-154 was being used on Kolavia Airlines flight 348 bound for Moscow. The airliner was taxiing prior to take-off when a fire started on board. It is not yet clear what exactly caused the blaze, but according to some reports one of the turbines caught fire, perhaps due to a foreign object entering it. Eventually, one of the fuel tanks exploded. There were over a hundred passengers on board the plane, plus eight crew members. At least ten people are said to have been injured. According to one of those aboard the aircraft, panic broke out when passengers realized that the cabin was filled with smoke and sparks. Reports suggested that the passengers and the crew were evacuated before the blast. The plane was completely destroyed in the explosion. Injured passengers and those who suffered from smoke inhalation have reportedly been hospitalized. At least four of them are in critical condition. Of those who died, at least one person -- a 52-year-old woman -- most likely succumbed to severe burns. Investigators are currently working on the scene. A criminal case has been launched over suspected negligence and violation of safety procedures -- the preliminary suspected causes. The Tupolev-154 is Russia's most successful ever plane with around a thousand of them produced since 1968. The three-engine medium range passenger plane is still one of the main work-horses of Russia's domestic aviation. It reaches speeds of over 900 kilometers per hour and is among the fastest in its class. Despite being criticized for its safety record, aviation experts say all fatal incidents are usually not due to faults with the aircraft's design. This is the second crash involving Tu-154 in less than a month. The previous incident happened in December in Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, when a Dagestan Airlines plane suffered engine failure en-route to the southern Russian republic. Two died and more than 80 were hurt when the plane skidded off the runway and broke up. Pilot error is being investigated as a possible cause.
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