One witness to the accident said it was a "miracle" there were any survivors.
The death toll is currently 41 after a Russian plane made an emergency landing and burst into flames at the Moscow airport.
The plane, an Sukhoi Superjet-100, was operated by national airline Aerflot. It had left the airport at 6:02 PM local time. It apparently did not have time to jettison fuel before making a hard landing.
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 5, 2019
The Russian plane ‘bounced’ on the tarmac as it made an emergency landing
A video of the incident showed passengers fleeing the plane through an inflatable evacuation slide. Plumes of black smoke billowed from the plane as fire engines raced to the scene.
The plane ricocheted off the runway, broke a landing gear and burst into flames. When it touched down for a third time and came to a halt, the fire spread and quickly burnt the entire plane down.
The airline said the plane was evacuated in just 55 seconds and the crew members “did everything to save the passengers”. According to the Investigative Committee, two children were among those who died.
Most of those who perished were reportedly in the tail end of the plane.
Dmitry Khlebushkin, one of the passengers who survived the crash, told reporters he was grateful to the airline crew. “Only thanks to the flight attendants, I survived,” he said.
Another survivor, Pyotr Egorov, was quoted in the Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying the plane had struck bad weather.
“We took off and then lightning struck the plane,” he said.
“The plane turned back and there was a hard landing. We were so scared, we almost lost consciousness. The plane jumped down the landing strip like a grasshopper and then caught fire on the ground.”
Svetlana Petrenko, a Spokesperson for the Investigative Committee, said they would start looking into whether pilots had breached safety guidelines and the cause of the crash. “Investigators soon will begin interviewing victims, eyewitnesses, airport staff and the airline carrier, as well as other persons responsible for the operation of the aircraft,” she said.
The Latest: Russian officials say at least 40 people were killed when an airplane lands in flames at a Moscow airport. https://t.co/hdxYDeTqBW
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 5, 2019
The cause of the Russian plane crash is still unclear
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 reported the Russian plane squawked 7600 just six minutes after taking off, indicating a radio communications failure. 17 minutes later, it changed to squawking 7700, the signal for a general emergency.
By 6:30 local time, the aircraft had returned to the Sheremetyevo International Airport, “trailing a large fireball”.
Aeroflot has 50 of the Sukhoi Superjets in operation and another 100 on order. The manufacturer said the Russian plane involved in the crash had undergone a maintenance check as recently as April 2019.
The Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) was closed shortly after the fatal crash, but has since re-opened.