Investigators in southern Russia were today probing the causes of a flydubai passenger jet crash that killed all 62 people on board, including an Indian couple, as emergency workers at the site wrapped up the salvage operation.
The Boeing 737, which flew from Dubai to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, exploded into a fireball early yesterday after missing the runway in bad weather. It had reportedly been making its second attempt to land after circling for several hours.
Investigators said all 55 passengers and seven crew— including nine different nationalities, with 45 from Russia— had died instantly. They launched a criminal probe into whether pilot error, a technical fault or poor weather was to blame. The Indians killed were identified as Mohan Shyam and wife Anju Kathirvel Aiyappan.
But the plane’s two black boxes were “badly damaged”, Russia’s intergovernmental aviation committee said in a statement, warning that analysing them would take time.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said emergency service workers had completed their “search and rescue” operation at the site, where tangled debris was spread across a wide area.
Investigators were spending the day combing the scene for clues of what caused the crash, Sokolov said, with experts from state-owned budget airline flydubai—a sister firm of Emirates Airlines—and the United Arab Emirates authorities aiding the probe.
Some 40 people, including air traffic controllers, officials from the regional meteorological centre, and flydubai representatives, had been questioned as part of the probe, investigators said.
Authorities also said they were starting the grisly task of identifying the collected human remains using DNA samples from relatives.
Residents in Rostov-on-Don—a city of some 1 million around 1,000 kilometres south of Moscow -- laid flowers and cuddly toys at the airport entrance as they tried to digest the tragedy.
“I am from Rostov myself and although I don’t personally know those killed, a lot of names are well known, it’s a small city,” local resident Boris told AFP.
The arrivals and departures boards in the terminal were red with cancelled flights as the airport remained closed, but deputy regional governor Alexander Grebenshchikov said it would open again at 0600 GMT (1130 IST) tomorrow.
The passengers on board flight FZ981 included 44 Russian nationals, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbek, the airline said. They comprised 33 women, 18 men and four children.
The company said the Cypriot pilot and Spanish co-pilot each had nearly 6,000 hours of flying experience. The five other crew members were from Spain, Russia, the Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan.