May 05, 2019
Sukhoi Superjet with more than 70 passengers on board caught fire while attempting emergency landing
It took fire fighters more than an hour to reach the tail section of the plane, seen here in flames on the Sheremetyevo airport runway. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters
By Andrew Roth
A Russian passenger jet burst into flames on Sunday while attempting an emergency landing at a Moscow airport, leaving 13 passengers dead and many more injured.
Video from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport showed the tail section of a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 engulfed in flames and discharging thick, black smoke as crew members evacuated passengers using emergency slides. Fire engines sped toward the blaze while some passengers were seen fleeing across the tarmac in tears.
Early reports indicate that most of those killed were trapped in the tail section of the plane. Russia’s Investigative Committee reported that two of the victims were children.
The jetliner was flying with 73 passengers and at least five crew members to Murmansk, a Russian city in the Arctic circle, when the pilots reported an emergency onboard and turned back. Aeroflot, the carrier managing the flight, said that the reason may have been an engine fire.
While attempting to land, the plane struck the runway several times, damaging the fuel tanks and igniting the fire in the rear section of the fuselage.
It took the firefighters battling the blaze more than an hour to reach passengers in the tail section.
Aeroflot currently operates 50 Russia-made Sukhoi Superjets in its fleet of 255 passenger aircraft. The carrier has ordered another 100 Superjets from Sukhoi, which is slated to deliver the aircraft between 2019 and 2026.
There have been concerns with the plane’s reliability before the incident. In 2012 a Sukhoi Superjet crashed into a mountain in Indonesia during a sales demonstration flight, killing 37 people. In 2016, a reported 11 Sukhoi jets had been grounded because of issues with the plane’s tail stabiliser.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation into safety violations leading to the death of two or more people, a common step following mass casualty events in Russia.
Officials have also confirmed that at least 11 people were injured, and some were hospitalised with burns.
The Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, issued condolences to the families of the victims, his press service reported.