MOSCOW – A Russian passenger airliner crashed Sunday night while trying to land at the airport in the city of Kazan, killing all 50 people aboard, officials said.
The Boeing 737 belonging to Tatarstan Airlines crashed about 7:20 p.m. local time (10:20 a.m. EST), an hour after taking off from Moscow. There were no immediate indications of the cause.
Reports said the plane appeared to lose altitude as it was making a second landing attempt, crashing and catching fire. State television showed a nighttime photograph of firefighters at the side of the aircraft after the flames had been extinguished.
Kazan, a city of about 1.1 million and the capital of the Tatarstan republic, is about 450 miles east of Moscow. Weather in Kazan was reported to be light precipitation and winds of about 18 mph.
A spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry, Irina Rossius, said there were 44 passengers and six crew members aboard and all had been killed.
A journalist who said she had flown on the same aircraft from Kazan to Moscow’s Domodedovo airport earlier in the day told Channel One state television that the landing in Moscow had been frightening because of a strong vibration during the final minutes of the flight.
“When we were landing it was not clear whether there was a strong wind, although in Moscow the weather was fine, or some kind of technical trouble or problem with the flight,” said Lenara Kashafutdinova. “We were blown in different directions, the plane was tossed around. The man sitting next to me was white as a sheet.”
Russia has seen a string of deadly crashes in recent years. Some have been blamed on the use of aging aircraft, but industry experts point to a number of other problems, including poor crew training, crumbling airports, lax government controls and widespread neglect of safety in the pursuit of profits.
The last fatal airliner crash was in December, when a Russian-made Tupolev belonging to Red Wings airline careered off the runway at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, rolled across a snowy field and slammed into the slope of a nearby highway, breaking into pieces and catching fire. Investigators say equipment failure caused the crash, which killed five people.
A 2011 crash in Yaroslavl that killed 44 people including a professional hockey team was blamed on pilot error. And Russian investigators found that the pilots in two crashes that killed 10 and 47 people in recent years were intoxicated.