All 62 on board Dubai passenger plane killed in Russia crash

A low-cost carrier passenger plane flying from the United Arab Emirates to Russia crashed early Saturday in stormy weather while attempting a second landing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, killing all 62 people on board.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Officials in Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suggested the disaster was the result of poor weather conditions.

Airline FlyDubai said there were 55 passengers and seven crew members aboard flight FZ981, which had departed Dubai airport at 1820 GMT on Friday and was due to arrive that evening at 2240 GMT.

"I am very sorry to say that we believe that there are no survivors," FlyDubai executive Ghaith al-Ghaith said.

The Dubai-based carrier identified the nationalities of the passengers as 44 Russians, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one from Uzbekistan.

The fatalities included 33 women, 18 men and four children, it said.

"We don't yet know all the details of the accident but we are working closely with the authorities to establish the cause," al-Ghaith said.

The FlyDubai chief said it was too early to blame human error for the crash. He also ruled out the possibility that the crash was caused by a bomb planted aboard the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The ill-fated plane was manufactured in 2011 and was last checked on January 21, the official told a press conference in Dubai.

Its pilot was from Cyprus and the co-pilot was from Spain. Al-Ghaith did not give details on the nationalities of other crew members.

FlyDubai has sent a team to Russia to join investigations, according to al-Ghaith.

Initial rescue efforts ended late Saturday and some of the bodies had been taken into the city to be identified, Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov was quoted by state news agency TASS as saying.

Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov said that experts had begun assessing the two flight recorders found in the wreckage.

The plane was about 250 metres short of the runway when it crashed at around 3:40 am local time (0040 GMT) and burst into flames, local officials said. The pilot had previously spent two hours circling the airport after aborting a first landing attempt.

Russian broadcaster Rossija24 reported that he had also attempted to abort the second landing, but the aircraft came into difficulty.

While the FlyDubai plane was circling, two other planes headed for Rostov-on-Don - one belonging to Russia's Aeroflot and another to Czech Airlines - were diverted to the Krasnodar airport 250 kilometres away.

A Russian Transport Ministry official told broadcasters that several possibilities were being examined, including bad weather and pilot error.

Meanwhile, the UAE civil aviation authority said the crash was probably due to bad weather.

"FlyDubai has a modern fleet of aircraft and professional crew," UAE civil aviation authority head Saif al-Seweidi said. "We back the likelihood that the accident resulted from bad weather."

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

Boeing said in a statement that it "stands ready to provide technical assistance upon the request of government agencies conducting the investigation."

The tragedy marks the first aviation accident for FlyDubai. It is also the second time in only six months that grieving families have gathered at a Russian airport following an aviation disaster. In later October 2015, a bomb blew up a Russian passenger jet headed for St Petersburg over the Egyptian Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.

Last update: Sun, 20/03/2016 - 02:36

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