113 Killed in Russian Plane Crash

Associated Press Writer
NDG College Newspaper Network

MOSCOW — An Armenian passenger plane crashed in stormy weather Wednesday off Russia’s Black Sea coast as it was heading for a landing, killing all 113 people on board – most Armenians.

The Airbus A-320, which belonged to the Armenian airline Armavia, disappeared from radar screens about four miles from shore and crashed after making a turn toward the Adler airport near the southern Russian city of Sochi, emergency official Viktor Beltsov said.

Officials said all 113 people aboard the plane, including six children, were killed.

Armenian airline officials said they believed the crash was due to the weather. Investigators did not believe terrorism was a factor.

The crash occurred early Wednesday during a flight from the Armenian capital of Yerevan to Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea about 350 miles away.

The victims’ relatives gathered later Wednesday at the Yerevan airport for a charter flight to Sochi after the crash. Gurgen Seroboyan, whose 23-year-old fiancee Lucenie Gevorkian was a flight attendant on the plane, wept as he waited.

“We were planning to get married and then this tragedy happened,” he said, choking up.

In Sochi’s airport, about 100 tearful relatives — nearly all Armenians — kept up an anguished vigil in a waiting hall. One man became hysterical and had to be taken away by ambulance.

Meanwhile, divers searched storm-churned waters for the victims’ remains. Search and rescue teams had pulled 26 bodies from the water by mid-morning, Kubinov said. None were wearing life jackets, indicating they did not have sufficient warning to prepare for an emergency landing.

Armavia said 26 Russians, one Ukrainian and one Georgian were among the passengers. The rest were Armenian citizens.

The plane with 105 passengers and eight crew members disappeared from radar at about 2:15 a.m. local time, Beltsov said. He said the plane went down while trying to make a repeat attempt at an emergency landing, but the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian air control agency as saying that the plane’s crew had not declared any emergency.

Andrei Agadzhanov, Armavia’s deputy commercial director, said the crew had communicated with Sochi ground controllers while the plane was flying over the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The ground controllers reported stormy weather but told the crew the plane could still land, he said.

Just before the landing, however, the ground controllers told the plane’s pilots to circle again before approaching the airport. Then the plane crashed.

The plane broke up on impact with the water, and wreckage was scattered over a wide area, Kubinov said. Salvage workers said the fuselage was recovered at a depth of more than 1,300 feet.

Rough seas, driving rain and low visibility were hampering the search, Russian news agencies reported. A deep-sea robot was to be used to try to recover the plane’s black box.

Agadzhanov said that the airline’s deputy general director, Vyacheslav Yaralov, had been aboard. He said the crew was experienced and that the bad weather was “certainly” the cause.

The Airbus A-320 was manufactured in 1995 and had been acquired on leasing by the airline. The aircraft underwent full-scale servicing a year ago.

Investigators from the airline and Armenian aviation authorities were to fly to the crash scene later Wednesday morning.

Associated Press reporters Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia, and Sergei Venyavsky in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, contributed to this story.