MOSCOW: At least 31 people were killed and 12 injured when a Russian passenger plane crashed Monday while trying to make an emergency landing shortly after take-off near the western Siberian city of Tyumen, authorities said.
All the crew members were among the dead. Twelve survivors were taken to hospital, all in a serious condition, police said.
There were 39 passengers and four crew on board the turboprop ATR-72 airliner which was operated by UTair airline. The aircraft was bound for the oil town of Surgut, reported RIA Novosti.
UTair said the aircraft was trying to perform an emergency landing at 5.50 a.m. when it went down some three km from Tyumen's Roshchino airport. An eyewitness said he saw smoke coming from the plane's twin engines as it plunged to the ground.
Another witness said there had been a "bang" and a flash before the craft crashed in a snowy field just outside the village of Gorkovka. Air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the aircraft within minutes after take-off, a spokesperson for the Federal Air Transport Agency told the Prime news agency.
The flight recorders have been recovered and a team of investigators has flown to the scene from Moscow. "Investigators consider a technical malfunction in the plane, or an error by ground services or pilots as most likely causes," the Russian Investigation Committee said.
"Judging by the nature of the damage to the aircraft, investigators rule out a terrorist attack," Investigation Committee Spokesman Vladimir Markin said. President Dmitry Medvedev put off a planned meeting with leaders of Russia's unregistered political parties because of the crash, his spokesperson said.
Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov has been appointed head of a government inquiry into the crash. The crash is Russia's deadliest air accident since a chartered jet crashed on take-off near the central city of Yaroslavl in September last year, wiping out most players from the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team.