Witnesses are claiming they heard a “loud noise” just before a passenger plane went down in flames just outside of Moscow, Russia. 71 are believed dead, and no survivors are expected to be found in the crash, which occurred in heavy winter weather.
Officials won’t speculate as to what might be the cause of the crash, but a loud noise could range from catastrophic structural failure to an on-board explosive.
Other witnesses say they saw the plane burning as it came down, a disturbing detail which may not indicate a mechanical issue.
The first victims of the horror crash have now been named and Evgeny Livanov is the youngest (identified so far).
Ilya Poletayev, 17, was also one of the 65 passengers who died on the plane after the engine ‘exploded’ when it left the airport.
All 71 people on board the plane died and a source from Russia’s emergency services said those on board had ‘no chance’ of survival.
Shocked witnesses reportedly saw a burning aircraft falling from the sky and wreckage was spread over a large snow-covered field.
Flightradar24 tweeted that the aircraft was descending at 22,000ft per minute and chilling video footage shows debris 25 miles from the airport.
The plane, which was operated by Saratov Airlines, was on its way to Orsk, a city in the Urals – 1,000 miles from Moscow.
But it disappeared from radar screens shortly after taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.
‘Judging by everything, no one has survived this crash,’ Russia’s transport minister Maxim Sololov said this afternoon.
A video filmed by local boys showed wreckage in the snow and debris was found spread over a ‘large area’. One source added: ‘It appears the plane began to fall apart in the sky.’
An emergencies ministry source told Interfax: ‘The plane crashed near the village of Argunovo. The crew and passengers had no chance.
‘The plane vanished from radar minutes after taking off from Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.’
President Vladimir Putin postponed a planned trip to Sochi to closely monitor the investigation.
He was due to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in the Black Sea resort where the president has an official residence.
Instead, Mr Abbas will meet Mr Putin in Moscow in the latter part of Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian news agency Tass said the plane had first flown in 2010, but took a two-year break because of a shortage of parts.
It was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, but was put into storage between 2015 and 2017 because of a lack of parts.
Tass reported that it re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017.
The jet was developed by Ukraine’s Antonov company in the early 2000s, and was manufactured in both Ukraine and Russia.
Initial Russian reports blamed weather or human error, but it was unclear how these squared with claims that the plane broke up in the sky.
Russia has seen record high snowfalls in recent days and visibility was reportedly poor.
Here is video from RT on the crash – first the initial reporting, then second, raw video of the crash site.