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Wind gusts reported at Russian plane crash site; all 50 onboard die

MOSCOW — A Russian passenger plane crashed in gusty weather Sunday evening while attempting to land at the airport in Kazan in central Russia, killing all 50 people on board, authorities said.

The Boeing 737, with 44 passengers and six crew members aboard, was arriving from Moscow when it crashed into the airport tarmac, caught fire and broke apart, according to Sergei Izvolsky, a spokesman for Rosaviatsia, a federal air transportation agency.

Among those killed was Irek Minnikhanov, the son of the president of Russia's  Tatarstan republic, Rustam Minnikhanov, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Tatrarstan's deputy prime minister, Yuri Kamaltynov.

The head of the Tatarstan department of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Alexander Antonov, was also on board, RIA Novosti reported,

“Now a commission is being created to investigate all the circumstances and reasons of the catastrophe,” Izvolsky said to Rossiya-24, a television news network. “It is too early now to speak about the reasons. As soon as we discover the flight recorders we will be able to say what caused the catastrophe.”

Izvolsky confirmed that there were no survivors.

Yelena Volosyuk, a senior meteorologist with the weather forecasting company Fobos, said in televised remarks that there were strong and sudden wind gusts in Kazan around the time of the crash.

“The weather [at the airport] was close to extreme," said Ruben Esayan, a prominent Russian test pilot, "which compelled the crew to attempt landing twice or three times. I am under the impression that there could be some technical fault on board which resulted in a rough landing.”

Esayan, speaking to Rossiya-24, also noted that the Boeing 737 is the most popular passenger plane in in Russia and one of the most reliable.

The Interfax news agency quoted unidentified law enforcement sources as saying that the plane, which had been in service for 23 years, made an emergency landing in Kazan a year ago because of depressurization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed deep condolences to the relatives of those who “died in this horrible catastrophe,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told ITAR-TASS.

The crash occurred at 7:25 p.m. local time (7:25 a.m. PST). The plane belonged to Tatarstan, a regional air company, officials said. Kazan is the capital of Russia's Tatarstan republic.

Rossiya-24 carried dramatic footage of what it said was a huge flame engulfing the plane as it sat on the tarmac in the dark, with fire trucks shooting at it with powerful water cannons.

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sergei.loiko@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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