The plane crashed about twenty minutes after takeoff. An engine failure is believed to be the cause of the accident.
Sixteen people were killed on Sunday in a crash of a plane carrying civilian paratroopers in central Russia and shattered in two from the impact of the fall. The drama occurred at 9:23 a.m. near the town of Menzelinsk, in the Republic of Tatarstan (Volga).
Six people rescued
The plane, manufactured in the Czech Republic and type L-410 crashed about twenty minutes after takeoff, the crew having detected an engine failure, according to local authorities. “Six people were rescued, 16 were found without any sign of life,” the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said on Telegram messaging.
The device belonged to a local club of the paramilitary organization DOSAAF, the Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force and Navy, according to Russian news agency Interfax. DOSAAF is heir to the Military and Scientific Society which was created in 1920 by the USSR to popularize military knowledge among the Soviets, especially in the aerospace field, and to strengthen their patriotic values.
Among those trained at DOSAAF airfields are the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. Even today, the company’s flying clubs across the country, such as Menzelinsk, are widely used for training cosmonauts. “There was nothing wrong with the Menzelinsk flying club, we are the best (…), cosmonauts train here”, assured the head of the local branch of DOSAAF, Ravil Nourmekhametov, quoted by the official TASS agency.
After the crash, the plane broke in two on impact, according to images released by the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
Only the six paratroopers who were sitting at the end of the plane and wearing helmets survived, local aerospace club instructor Oleg Chiporov told TASS.
“One parachutist had only bruises on, and he got off the plane on his own,” Chiporov said. All the survivors were however hospitalized and one of them is “in serious condition”, according to the RIA Novosti agency, which quotes a source at the local Ministry of Health.
The crash was caused by an engine failure, said Tatarstan leader Roustam Minnikhanov, who attended the scene. “While at an altitude of 70 meters, the pilots reported that a left engine had stopped working and requested an emergency landing,” he said in a televised response on the public channel Rossia 24.
According to Mr. Minnikhanov, the crew tried to move away from nearby localities to land the plane, “but apparently the altitude did not allow it.” The plane hit a pickup truck with one of its wings and rolled over, he said.
An investigation for violation of the rules of safety and operation of air transport has been opened, according to the Russian Investigation Committee, in charge of the main cases in the country.
Russia, long known for its numerous accidents, has significantly improved its aviation safety since the 2000s, but crashes still occur quite frequently, especially in sparsely populated areas such as the Far East.