At least 44 people, including Russia's top nuclear design scientists were killed on Tuesday when a Tu-134 passenger plane crash landed on a highway in heavy fog and burst into flames in northern republic of Karelia.
The plane belonging to the Rus-Air airlines was flying from Moscow to the Karelian capital Petrozavodsk when it crash landed on a highway, one kilometer from the airport, said emergencies situation ministry spokesperson Irina Andrianaova.
"There were 52 people on board including nine crew members. Forty four people were killed and eight survived, including an air-hostess," Andrianova told Rossiya 24 TV. The whole leadership of the designers units of Russia's state nuclear corporation were killed in the crash, according to reports.
"In Petrozavodsk crash practically the whole leadership of OKB Hydropress united designing bureau was killed," a source in the 'Rosatom' state nuclear corporation was quoted as saying by Interfax.
They include director and general designer Sergei Ryzhov, deputy director and chief designer Gennady Banyuk, and head designer and chief of branch Nikolai Trunov, the agency added. Eight foreigners were among the 44 people killed in the plane crash in Petrozavodsk.
Eight people, including a nine-year-old boy and his teenage sister were among the eight people who survived the crash. The Emergency Situations Ministry statement said the dead foreigners were a Swedish and a Dutch citizen and two Ukrainians, as well as a Russian-American family of four.
At the time of crash, despite fog and rain high intensity lights used in poor visibility conditions were out of operation at the runway of the Petrozavodsk airport. "The ground systems ensuring the safe landing of jets had not been functioning properly. The causes of this will be cleared out by a special commission," Alexei Morozov, deputy chairman of the CIS Interstate Aviation Committee was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.
According to Vesti FM radio the authorities have closed Petrozavodsk airport for the passenger traffic due to numerous shortcomings in its functioning. "It was a former military airfield without proper infrastructure for receiving flights in adverse weather," an official of the Karelia administration was quoted as saying by the radio.
The ill-fated Tupolev Tu-134 jet, of a little-known RusAir airlines specialising on VIP charters took off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport at 22:30 on Monday. Slightly less than an hour-and-a-half later it crashed on the Petrozavodsk-Suojarvi highway breaking into parts and bursting into flames.
According to an eyewitness a car was squeezed under the belly of the crash landing airliner and many motorists rushed to help the passengers of the jet. "We had rescued some. I was going towards a stocky man with stretched hands calling for help, but then it burst into flames, it was hell and I had to retreat. I cannot forget that man's eyes praying for help," a weeping motorist told Rossiya 24 TV. Six of the eight survivors will be flown to Moscow for further treatment.