Cairo: A Russian Airbus aircraft carrying 224 people, mostly tourists, crashed in a mountainous region in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula today killing all on board. Egyptian security officials confirmed there were no survivors from among the 217 passengers and seven crew members on board the aircraft.
Most of the 100 bodies recovered so far from the site of the crash were burned, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. All passengers and crew were Russian citizens, said Adel Mahgoub, chairman of Egypt’s civilian airport regulator. Egyptian air traffic control had lost contact with the Airbus A321 23 minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh for St Petersburg early today.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail’s office confirmed that a Russian civilian plane crashed in central Sinai. Flight KGL9268 belonged to Kogalymavia airline, a small airline based in Western Siberia. A criminal case has been opened against the airline for “violation of rules of flight and preparation for them,” Russia’s Ria news agency reported.
The reason behind the plane crash was yet to be ascertained but preliminary assessments by security and aviation officials indicated that it crashed in the Sinai Peninsula due to “technical reasons”. The debris of the Russian jetliner was found in an area in the south Al-Arish city in North Sinai, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said in a statement.
“Military planes have discovered the wreckage of the plane… in a mountainous area, and 45 ambulances have been directed to the site to evacuate dead and wounded,” a cabinet statement said.
The wreckage was found in the Hasana area and bodies removed, along with the plane’s black box. An official described the crash site as a “tragic scene” with bodies of victims still strapped to seats.
Egypt’s Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek ordered that after autopsy, the bodies should be sent to the Russian Embassy which will transfer them back. Sadek also ordered a committee to search for the two black boxes of the plane and review the recordings to investigate the reasons for the crash.
The plane was carrying 217 passengers, including 17 children, and seven crew members. The last communication with the pilot of the Russian plane was while he was flying at 30,000 feet, an official in the Egyptian Air traffic control told reporters. The pilot complained of malfunction in the wireless devices and asked for an emergency landing at the nearest airport, the official said.
The crew of the plane had made recent complaints about engine trouble, according to Russian media reports. “Several times in the last week this plane had requested assistance from technical support because the engine would not start,” a source was quoted as saying.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered officials to coordinate with their Egyptian counterparts to organise the dispatch of Russian aircraft to Egypt with rescuers and investigators able to work at the crash site. He also declared a day of mourning tomorrow.