Emergency workers have found around 200 body parts strewn across a snowy field near Moscow at the site of a Russian plane crash that killed all 71 people onboard.
The body parts found among and around the wreckage of the Saratov Airlines plane will be removed by Monday evening as a team of 600 continue to comb the area with the help of search aircraft, a Russian emergency ministry spokesman said.
An Investigative Committee of Russia spokeswoman said earlier that the body parts and plane fragments had spread over an expansive area.
“The scatter of fragments of the aircraft and bodies of dead passengers occupies a large territory; the radius is not less than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles),” said the spokeswoman, Svetlana Petrenko.
The flight disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from Domodedovo Airport in the greater Moscow region Sunday and crashed southeast of the airport in Ramenskoye District.
Officials said both of the plane’s flight recorders had been recovered but have not given any details of what they have revealed or what the cause of the crash may be.
The Antonov An-148 was bound for the Russian city of Orsk near the border with Kazakhstan. There were 65 passengers and six crew onboard, included three children, aged 5, 13 and 17, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave “deep condolences to all those who lost relatives and friends in this disaster,” his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state media.
Officials launch investigation
Officials have launched a criminal investigation into the crash and all possible causes are being explored, said the Investigative Committee’s Petrenko.
Authorities have started questioning Saratov Airlines employees and the Domodedovo Airport workers who prepared the plane for flight.
The crew did not report any problems before the plane crashed, according to RIA.
The cockpit voice recorder was found Monday in “satisfactory condition,” an emergency representative said. The other “black box” — the flight data recorder registering details such as speed and altitude — was recovered on Sunday.
The An-148 is a Ukrainian-designed regional jet that was first introduced in 2009. Russian state airline GTK Rossiya, the first carrier to operate the An-148, was sharply critical in 2010 of the model’s reliability early on in its service, citing problems with major components like engines and electrical systems, according to Flightglobal.
The jet that crashed Sunday was part of the batch of planes that GTK Rossiya had complained about several years ago, according to the 2010 Flightglobal report. There is no indication yet, however, whether the crash was caused by a technical error, human error or a combination of the two.