Lightning Led to Russia Plane Fire That Killed 41, Says Pilot

Reportedly, 78 people were on board.

Updated
World
2 min read

The pilot of a Russian passenger plane that caught fire on the runway of Moscow's busiest airport, killing 41 people, said, on Monday, 6 May, lightning led to the emergency landing.

Investigators were on Monday working to understand the causes of the blaze after the Sukhoi Superjet-100 had to return to Sheremetyevo airport shortly after take-off Sunday evening.

Pilot Denis Yevdokimov told Russian media the aircraft lost communication and needed to switch to emergency control mode "because of lightning" on the Aeroflot flight to the Arctic city of Murmansk.

He did not specify if the plane was struck directly.

Elena Markovskaya, a spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee, said at a briefing early Monday that 41 people died in the accident Sunday evening and 37 people survived.

But Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said later that 38 people survived, though without giving a death toll.

Reportedly, 78 people were on board.

Lightning Led to Russia Plane Fire That Killed 41, Says Pilot
(Photo: AP)

Three of them have been hospitalised, but they were not in a serious condition, the Moscow region's Health Minister Dmitry Matveyev said.

Huge Black Columns of Smoke

Russian television showed huge black columns of smoke towering over the plane. Other videos shared on social media showed the aircraft ablaze as it attempted to land, then passengers leaving by a forward door, reported AFP.

The Interfax agency reported that the plane, a Russian-made Superjet-100, had just taken off from Sheremetyevo on a domestic route when the crew issued a distress signal.

"It attempted an emergency landing but did not succeed the first time, and on the second time the landing gear hit (the ground), then the nose did, and it caught fire," a source told Interfax, according to the report.

According to the Ria Novosti news agency, the plane had been headed to the far northwest city of Murmansk in Russia. It said initial indications suggested an electrical fault might have caused the fire while the plane was in the air.

Russian investigators said they had opened a criminal probe into a possible breach of security rules.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, reported AFP.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also ordered a special committee to investigate the disaster.

Several flights have been diverted to other Moscow airports or Nizhny Novgorod, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the Russian capital.

(With inputs from AP and AFP.)

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