44 dead in Petrozavodsk crash

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Russia's emergencies ministry said that 44 people died in the crash of a Tupolev Tu-134 on a highway close to Petrozavodsk airport, in northwestern Russia.

Of eight survivors, five are being transferred to Moscow for treatment for burns and impact injuries on board a ministry Ilyushin Il-76, which arrived carrying specialist medical personnel and features onboard facilities for transporting casualties. The remaining three survivors are said to be too ill to be moved.

A passenger manifest published by the ministry showed that of the 43 passengers and nine crew, most were Russian, with four family members with dual US/Russian nationality, two Ukrainians, plus one person each from Sweden and the Netherlands. All the foreign nationals were among the dead.

The ministry added that the aircraft's flight recorders had been recovered.

The aircraft, of executive jet operator RusAir, had taken off from Moscow Domodedovo airport at 02:30 local time (22:30 GMT) and was on approach to Petrozavodsk's 02 runway when radar contact was lost at 03:40 local time. According to local residents who tried to rescue passengers, the aircraft had broken in two on the highway around 1km from the end of the runway before bursting into flames.

Pictures from the scene showed the aircraft almost completely destroyed and on fire, with sections of its wing and undercarriage resting in the gardens of nearby houses.

The pictures show a partial registration suggesting the aircraft's identity was RA-65691. This is listed in Flightglobal's ACAS database as a Tu-134A built in 1980.

According to the airport director cited by Russia's Interfax news agency, weather conditions at the time were "unfavourable" with fog and heavy rain. Petrozavodsk is a small regional airport with a single 2500m ((8,200ft) runway serving the capital of the Karelia region near the Finnish border.