16 parachutists' dead following aircraft crash in central Russia
Sixteen people were killed after an aircraft carrying parachutists crashed in central Russia on Sunday, the emergencies ministry said. The Czech-made L-410 aircraft crashed at 9h23am in the Republic of Tatarstan with 22 people on board. The aircraft broke in two on impact, according to images released by the Russian emergency ministry. "Six people were rescued, 16 were taken out without signs of life," the ministry said. Images published by the ministry showed the aircraft broken in half with a severely dented nose. The six survivors were being hospitalised, the local health ministry reported. According to Interfax, the aircraft belonged to the Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Navy of Russia, which describes itself as a sports and defence organisation.
The head of the organisation's regional branch said the parachuting club that organised the flight was not to blame. "We are the best, we are among the top five clubs," Ravil Nurmekhametov said, adding that the club had hosted European and World championships.
The Czech-built L-410 light aircraft was one of the two aircraft used by the club, according to its website.
The Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said it had opened a criminal investigation into a suspected violation of safety regulations.
Tatarstan Governor Rustam Minnikhanov said the pilots reported that their left engine had failed and attempted an emergency landing. But the aircraft's wing hit a Gazelle vehicle and the plane overturned.
Cosmonauts use the area for training and the aeroclub has hosted local, European championships and one world championship, the club's director Ravil Nurmukhametov said.
The state-run Cosmonaut Training Centre has suspended its ties with the aeroclub pending an investigation.
Two L-410 aircraft suffered fatal accidents in Russia earlier this year, leaving a total of eight people dead.
Russia was notorious for aircraft accidents but has improved air traffic safety in recent years with major airlines switching from Soviet aircraft to modern jets. But poor aircraft maintenance and lax safety standards still lead to frequent accidents in far-flung regions involving light aircraft, with occasional large-scale tragedies.
Sources: Euro News, The Daily Mail