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41 People Dead After Russian Airliner Bursts into Flames Upon Landing

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MOSCOW – Russian officials have given out conflicting numbers on a fiery airline accident at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, but they indicate at least 41 people died.

Elena Markovskaya, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Investigative Committee, said at a briefing early Monday that 41 people died in the accident Sunday evening and 37 people survived.

But Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said later that 38 people survived, though without giving a death toll.

The fire aboard the Sukhoi SSJ100 regional jet flown by Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot broke out after the plane made a hard emergency landing. Video on Russian television shows fire bursting from the plane’s underside as it landed.

The fire aboard the Sukhoi SSJ100 regional jet flown by Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot broke out after the plane made a hard emergency landing.

The plane had taken off from the airport bound for Murmansk, but turned back after encountering unspecified problems in the air.

Two children were among the passengers who died, the Investigative Committee said. At least six people were reported injured.

The airport said in a statement that the plane, which had taken off from Sheremetyevo Airport for the northern city of Murmansk, turned back for unspecified technical reasons and made a hard landing that started the fire.

Video broadcast later on Russian television showed flames bursting from the jetliner’s underside as it lands and then bounces. The plane apparently did not have time to jettison fuel before the emergency landing, news reports said.

“Investigators soon will begin interviewing victims, eyewitnesses, airport staff and the airline carrier, as well as other persons responsible for the operation of the aircraft,” Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.

Interfax reported that the tail was completely burned and said a rescue team was trying to find survivors in that part of the plane.

The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia’s troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.

However, the plane’s reputation was troubled after defects were found in some horizontal stabilizers.

The plane’s manufacturer, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, said the plane in Sunday’s accident had received maintenance at the beginning of April. Aeroflot said the pilot had some 1,400 hours of experience flying the plane.

The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft, but also has been used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico.

This is the second fatal accident involving the plane. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 aboard.

The Associated Press

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