MOSCOW — Authorities are investigating whether human error or technical failure caused a Russian airliner flying from Moscow to Kazan to crash Sunday, killing all 50 people on board.
The Boeing 737 belonging to the Tatarstan airlines crashed on the runway about 7:25 p.m. local time while landing Sunday at Kazan International Airport, about 450 miles east of Moscow. There were 44 passengers and six crewmembers on board, Emergency Ministers spokeswoman Irina Rossius said, according to the Associated Press.
The plane was trying to make a second landing attempt when it touched the surface of the runway near the control tower and was “destroyed and caught fire,” said Sergei Izvolky, spokesman for the Russian aviation agency.
Law enforcement officials told news agency Interfax that technical failure and human error may have been responsible for the crash. Preliminary information suggests that pilots may have informed air control that the plane was not ready to land when it was still about 550 yards from the runway, indicating equipment may not have been working properly.
The ITAR-TASS news agency reported Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a special government commission to investigate the cause of the crash. Meanwhile, authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the crash over alleged safety violations, with RIA Novosti reporting that Russia’s official transportation watchdog, Rostransnadzor, is looking into the airline.
Investigative committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told ITAR-TASS that investigators “will check all possible causes, including pilot error, technical failure and weather conditions.”
Light precipitation with winds of about 18 mph were reported around the time of the crash.
Victims on board the flight include Irek Minnikhanov, 23, son of the president of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, and Alexander Antonov, regional head of the Federal Security Service, the state-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported.
Russia has seen a string of deadly crashes in recent years, the most recent of which happened in December when a plane careened off a runway at a Moscow airport and slammed into the slope of a nearby highway, killing five. In 2011, a crash in Yaroslavl killed 44 people, including a professional hockey team.