71 killed in plane crash near Moscow

71 killed in plane crash near Moscow

MOSCOW, AFP: A Russian passenger plane carrying 71 people crashed near Moscow on Sunday minutes after taking off, killing everyone on board in one of the country's worst ever aviation disasters.

Investigators said the Antonov An-148 plane crashed in the Ramensky district on the outskirts of Moscow at 2:48 pm (local time) after taking off from the capital's Domodedovo airport.

"Sixty-five passengers and six crew members were on board, and all of them died," Russia's office of transport investigations said in a statement.

The flight was operated by the domestic Saratov Airlines and was headed for Orsk, a city in the Ural mountains.

President Vladimir Putin offered "his profound condolences to those who lost their relatives in the crash," his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The crash site was enveloped in heavy snow, making it difficult to access, with emergency workers forced to park their vehicles and access the wreckage by foot.

Russia has experienced record snowfall in recent weeks and investigators said they would not rule out poor weather as a possible cause of the disaster.

A regional official said the aircraft's black box had been retrieved.

The Russian-made plane was reportedly seven years old and bought by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago.

Emergency services said in a statement that more than 150 rescue workers were deployed to the site.

The transport investigations office said the plane disappeared from radar screens around four minutes after take-off.

The Russian transport minister was on his way to the crash site, agencies reported. The transport ministry said several causes for the crash were being considered, including weather conditions and human error.

Peskov said Putin had ordered the establishment of a special commission to probe the crash.

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