This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Forty-one people are believed to have died when a Russian passenger plane made a fiery emergency landing and burst into flames at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, authorities say.
“There were 78 people including crew members on board the plane,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement late on May 4. “According to the updated info which the investigation has as of now, 37 people survived,” including four crew members.
Five injured passengers were taken to hospital. Two of them were reportedly in serious condition.
Earlier in the day, the committee said 13 people, including two children, had been killed in the plane crash.
The aircraft, a Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100, took off from Sheremetyevo airport bound for the northern Russian city of Murmansk, but was forced to turn back due to unspecified “technical reasons,” according to Aeroflot, Russia’s national carrier.
The company said that the plane’s engines caught fire on the runway of the airport after making an emergency landing — not in mid-air as initially reported.
The pilot of the aircraft and passengers were quoted as saying that the jet was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm.
A criminal case has been opened into the crash, the Investigative Committee said.
Flight SU-1492 departed Sheremetyevo airport on the afternoon of May 5 for a 2.5-hour flight to Murmansk.
Flightradar24 tracking service showed that the aircraft made two circles around Moscow and landed after flying for about 45 minutes.
Interfax news agency reported that the plane failed in its first attempt to land because it was still traveling at high speed, and then its automated equipment failed on the second approach, forcing the pilot into a hard landing.
Videos on social media show passengers plunging down the plane’s inflatable evacuation slides and running across the airport’s tarmac and grass, some with their luggage in hand, to escape the burning aircraft.
Aeroflot said that a commission has been established “to investigate the causes and circumstances of the incident.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered his condolences to the families of the victims, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
This is the second fatal accident involving the SSJ100, which is widely used in Russia. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 people on board.