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Crashed Saratov An-148 lost contact 7min after departure

Investigators probing the loss of a Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148 shortly after departure from Moscow Domodedovo state that contact was lost just 7min after take-off.

Saratov Airlines has identified the twinjet as RA-61704, an eight-year old airframe originally delivered to Rossiya before being transferred to lessor Ilyushin Finance and acquired by Saratov Airlines last year.

It had been operating flight 6W703 to Orsk.

Saratov has disclosed the manifest, listing 65 passengers and six crew members on board the ill-fated aircraft.

Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee says the aircraft had departed Domodedovo at 14:21 but that it lost both radio and radar contact 7min later at 14:28.

It came down near the village of Argunovo, some 40km east of Domodedovo, but the investigation authority has yet to provide any clarity over the circumstances of the accident.

The An-148 was destroyed, it adds.

Meteorological data for Domodedovo at the time of the departure shows light snow, freezing temperatures of around minus 5C, and low cloud, with cumulonimbus in the vicinity.

Russia's federal Investigative Committee says the wreckage is spread over a wide area, with a radius of at least 1km.

While this is potentially consistent with an in-flight break-up, investigators have not drawn any conclusions from the location or state of the debris.

"No reports of an aircraft malfunction were received from the crew," adds the Investigative Committee, which has opened a routine criminal inquiry into the crash.

Domodedovo was forced to enhance security measures after sabotage brought down two aircraft departing the airport in 2004. It was also the scene of a fatal terminal bombing in 2011.

Russian air transport was also the target of a suspected bomb attack in 2015 when an Airbus A321 crashed in Sinai shortly after departing Sharm el-Sheikh for St Petersburg.

There is no immediate evidence that Russian federal security service FSB is participating in the investigation into the Saratov crash.

During the early production of the An-148, an aircraft produced at the VASO plant in Voronezh crashed which conducting a demonstration flight. The investigation concluded the aircraft – built after the Saratov jet – had broken up in mid-air while travelling at excessive speed.

The Investigative Committee says its inquiry will check weather conditions, the human factor, the technical condition of the aircraft and other possible scenarios.

Documentation is being obtained from Saratov Airlines and personnel from the airline and departure airport are being questioned.

Russia's emergency situations ministry says the recovery and rescue resources at the site have been expanded to include 600 personnel and 120 vehicles and other units of equipment.

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