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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tu-134 Flips Over in Samara, 6 Dead

APOfficials peering inside the Tu-134 plane after it crashed Saturday at the Samara airport. The accident killed six people and injured more than 20 others.
At least six people died and more than 20 were injured when a Tu-134 jet operated by UTAir crashed Saturday morning in heavy fog at the Samara airport.

It remained unclear Sunday what caused UTAir Flight 471 to crash short of the runway. Regional prosecutors blamed pilot error, while a mechanic on board put it down to a combination of zero visibility and technical ­problems with the aircraft.

Officials from the regional Emergency Situations Ministry said Sunday that the plane's landing gear had failed, Gazeta.ru reported.

UTAir was one of nine carriers banned earlier this month from flying into ­European Union airspace for safety ­reasons.

Flights in and out of Samara airport were canceled until further notice.

Yury Mushikhin, a spokesman for UTAir, said 57 people had been aboard the Tu-134 jet, including 50 passengers and seven crew members. The plane was scheduled to make a stopover in Samara en route from Surgut to ­Belgorod.

Relatives of the dead were taken to local hospitals Sunday to identify the bodies, Interfax reported.


AP
Police officers and investigators looking at the wreckage of a Tu-134 plane that crashed in Samara on Saturday."
Mushikhin confirmed that six passengers had died in the crash. As of Sunday evening, he said, 21 people were receiving treatment at a local hospital. Five members of the crew were hospitalized, but none died.

Emergency Situations Ministry ­officials said earlier that 24 people had been hospitalized from a total of 51 people injured in the crash.

Before attempting to land, the plane circled several times above the airport to burn off excess fuel, ministry officials said. For reasons yet to be determined, the plane then landed 400 meters short of the runway.

After impact, the plane skidded onto the runway, flipped over and broke apart, Samara airport official Anatoly Ilin told RIA-Novosti.

In a statement, UTAir said the plane had no technical problems, RIA-Novosti reported.

"Before it hit the ground, the plane met airworthiness and maintenance standards applicable to this type of aircraft," the statement said.

In February, Transportation Ministry Igor Levitin said the aging fleets of Tu-134 and Tu-154 aircraft would be phased out of commercial use over the next five years.

Mushikhin said the age of the plane that crashed in Samara was "irrelevant," however, because it met government safety standards.

Only after analyzing the in-flight data recorders, which have been recovered and sent to Moscow, will the reasons for the crash become clear, officials from the Prosecutor General's Office said, Gazeta.ru reported.


Dmitry Petrochenko / Reuters
A Tu-134 plane pictured on a tarmac in Moscow in an undated photograph.
The Transportation Ministry has assembled a commission to investigate the crash.

Members of the commission include Deputy Transportation Minister Boris Korol; Gennady Kurzenkov, head of the Federal Transportation Inspection Service; Alexander Yurchik of the Federal Air Transportation Agency; and officials from the International Aviation Committee.

The ministry announced that relatives of the deceased would receive $75,000 in compensation from UTAir.

Regional prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the actions of the pilot, whom they believe broke safety rules.

Officials at the Samara airport and various hospitals in the city could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Saturday's crash was the latest in a string of aviation accidents over the past 12 months in former Soviet republics, most of them in bad weather.

In May 2006, 113 people were killed when an Armenian Airlines A320 crashed into the Black Sea near Sochi.

In July, an Airbus A310 operated by the S7 airline burst into flames after sliding off a runway and slamming into a barrier at Irkutsk airport, killing 125 people.

One month later, a Pulkovo Airlines Tu-154 crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing 170.

In December, a small passenger plane blew up in midair over the Leningrad region, killing the three people on board.

And last month, three people were left in a coma after a private jet flipped over during takeoff from Moscow's Vnukovo Airport.