MOSCOW, Aug 9 – A Russian cargo plane crashed on Tuesday in the remote Far East after reporting engine trouble and disappearing off radars, apparently killing all 11 on board in the latest in a spate of air accidents.
Transport prosecutors said in a statement that the ageing Soviet jet came down in a hard-to-reach area of the Magadan region, hundreds of kilometres even from the nearest village.
“The remains of the plane were found 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Omsukchan village,” said the transport prosecutors for the Far East region.
“According to initial information, 11 people — nine crew members and two passengers — died in the crash.”
The plane disappeared off the radars at around 14.30 local time (0330 GMT) Tuesday after reporting that its engine was on fire and requesting to make an emergency landing at the Magadan airport.
The An-12 was operated by a Khabarovsk-based Avis-Amur company and was carrying 16 tonnes of provisions from Komsomolsk-On-Amur to the village of Kiperveyem in the remote Chukotka region.
The site of the accident is near a gold mine in one of Russia’s harshest and least populated areas. During the summer the Chukotka peninsula is only accessible by air and sea as no roads connect it to Russia’s transportation networks.
The RussianPlanes.net aircraft register said the missing jet was the oldest An-12 in civilian use in Russia, made in 1963. In 2007 the transportation ministry watchdog temporarily banned the plane’s owner from flying because the An-12 was overloaded by more than five tonnes.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into possible violations of flight regulations, spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax news agency.
He added that the corpses have yet to be found.
The Magadan branch of the emergency ministry said in a statement that poor weather conditions prevented a rescue operation from starting for several hours until Tuesday evening.
The four engine turboprop is used by both military and civilian organisations. In 2008, nine people died when a similar plane crashed near the city of Chelyabinsk after ploughing into power lines.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev this summer recommended removing two Soviet-era jets, the An-24 and Tu-134, from regular use by the end of the year after two crashes killed 54 people in three weeks.
Older regional planes are especially prevalent in Russia’s Far Northern and Siberian regions that are sparsely populated and not served by leading carriers.
Another Antonov-made plane made a hard landing and lost its wing Monday as it missed the landing strip in a Far Eastern airport. Fifteen people were injured and passengers had to self-evacuate by breaking through the plane’s windows to avoid a blast from kerosene ignition, Kommersant wrote Tuesday.