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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rust Blamed for Airline Crash

The fuselage of a passenger jet that crashed March 18 near the southern city of Stavropol was so rusted that it fell apart in mid-flight, a news agency reported Monday, citing unidentified aviation officials.

Interfax said metal corrosion in inaccessible sections of the fuselage weakened the An-24 aircraft to the point that it disintegrated 15 minutes after take-off, killing all 50 people aboard.

Russian officials refused to confirm the Interfax report, calling it premature.

"It is too early to make any conclusions about the reason for the crash,'' said Viktor Laktyunkin, spokesman for the Interstate Aviation Committee, which investigates air crashes in former Soviet republics.

The An-24 twin-turboprop airliner, operated by Stavropol Airlines, was flying at 6,000 meters when it broke into pieces and crashed near the city of Cherkessk, about 90 kilometers south of Stavropol. Plane fragments and human remains were scattered over a 6-kilometer-wide area.