Workers comb snowy field for clues to Russian plane crash
Wading through knee-deep snow, hundreds of emergency workers searched a vast field near Moscow on Monday for remains of the 71 victims from the crash of a Russian airliner, and aviation experts began deciphering the jet's two flight recorders.
Investigators quickly ruled out a terrorist attack in Sunday's crash of the An-148 regional jet bound for Orsk in the southern Urals. The air disaster has reignited questions, however, about the twin-engine plane that was developed jointly by Russia and Ukraine but phased out of production amid the political crisis between the neighbours.
The model has a spotty safety record, with one previous crash and a string of major incidents in which pilots struggled to land safely. The carrier, Saratov Airlines, has grounded several other An-148s in its fleet pending the crash investigation.
The plane crashed several minutes after taking off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport, and all 65 passengers and the crew of six were killed when the aircraft hit the ground and exploded in a giant fireball.
The Investigative Committee, Russia's top agency for looking into such disasters, said that before the crash, the plane was intact and there had been no fire on board. Officials would not speculate on possible causes.
The plane's fuel tanks exploded on impact, gouging a deep crater and scattering wreckage across 30 hectares (74 acres), according to the Emergencies Ministry, which used drones to direct the search. Pieces of the plane and human remains were buried in deep snow; some debris was found in nearby trees.