Flydubai plane crashes in Russia; 62 aboard reported dead

Flydubai plane crashes in Russia; 62 aboard reported dead

A passenger jet circled a southern Russian airport in high winds and poor visibility before making a second, fatal attempt at landing Saturday, killing all 62 people aboard.

The flydubai Boeing 737 jet crashed at the Rostov-on-Don airport after traveling from Dubai, Russia’s Southern Regional Emergency Center said Saturday.

All those on board Flight FZ981 have died, Russian state news agency Tass reported, citing an official at the emergency center.

Psychologists on scene

Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told media that the jet had been carrying 55 passengers and seven crew members when it crashed while reattempting to land. It was scheduled to touch down at 1:20 a.m. local time (6:20 p.m. ET), but went down at 3:50 a.m. (8:50 p.m. ET ), Puchkov said.

Rostov-on-Don airport had been closed and teams of medics and psychologists are on standby to give assistant to family members, he said.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations said 700 people were involved in the rescue operation. The site of the crash lay about 800 feet (243 meters) from the airport runway, it said.

It said investigators had ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash at this stage and that weather conditions were most-likely responsible.

The plane’s pilot had circled the airport, waiting for the weather to clear before making a second attempt to land, but the aircraft’s tail had clipped the runway, the ministry said.

State media reported winds of 97 kph (60 mph) at the time of the crash.

Thoughts and prayers

In a statement, flydubai confirmed that its Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 had crashed on landing, resulting in fatalities.

“While we are still awaiting final confirmation, it is with great sadness that we report we believe there are no survivors. We are unable to provide more specific details at this moment but we will provide updates as soon as we possibly can,” the airline said.

“Our primary concern is for the families of the passengers and crew who were on board. Everyone at flydubai is in deep shock and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those involved.

“We don’t yet know all the details of the accident but we are working closely with the authorities to establish the cause. We are making every effort to care for those affected and will provide assistance to the loved ones of those on board,” flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said.

Children among victims

Flydubai said it was verifying the flight’s passenger list but that it appeared the jet’s 55 passengers included 33 women, 18 men and four children.

Fifty of the passengers were Russian citizens, the Emergency Ministries said. Only one of the seven crew members was Russian.

It has published a list of those on board.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims, state news agency Tass reported.

‘The governor of the region and the emergency minister reported to the president about the searching and rescue operation on the ground. The leader of the state has stressed that the key thing now is to work with families and relatives of the passengers who were on board,” Tass quoted Peskov as saying.

Russian state media reported that families of those passengers killed would receive one million rubles (approximately USD$15,000) from the government and that Sunday had been declared a day of mourning in the Rostov region.

Boeing issued a statement saying its thoughts were also with the crash victims and their families and friends. “Boeing stands ready to provide technical assistance upon the request of government agencies conducting the investigation,” it said.

Pilot disorientation?

CNN aviation expert Mary Schiavo said radar suggested the plane had flown three large, looping circles around the airport before it crashed.

“The poor visibility is probably the biggest clue,” Schiavo said. “But this runway was lighted, it had good lighting at one end and passable lighting at the other and it did have an instrument landing system,” she said.

“With the clue of bad weather and making at least three different circles trying to reorient to this runway it does look like pilot disorientation.”

Meantime, Aviation Safety Analyst David Soucie agreed with the ministry’s preliminary assessment that weather was likely to blame.

“It’s not likely it was a mechanical failure,” Soucie said. “It’s most-likely a weather-related incident.”

Russia 24 quoted officials as saying Rostov-on-Don airport would be closed until midnight March 20 local time (5 p.m. Saturday ET).

Until then, flights were being redirected to the city of Krasnodar — 141 miles south of Rostov-on-Don — it said.

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