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MOSCOW - An Armenian passenger plane crashed in stormy weather early Wednesday off Russia's Black Sea coast as it was headed in for a landing, killing all 113 people on board, emergency officials said.
|Armavia Airbus A320-200 EK-32009, the aircraft reportedly involved in the accident. (Axel Juengerich/View Full Size)
The Airbus A320, which belonged to the Armenian airline Armavia, disappeared from radar screens about four miles from the shore and crashed after making a turn toward the Adler airport near the southern Russian city of Sochi, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said. Rescue officials in the ministry's southern regional branch said all 113 people aboard the plane, including six children, were killed.
Armavia officials said they believed the crash was due to the weather, but Sergei Kubinov, regional head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said the age of the aircraft and technical problems could have been involved. Investigators did not believe terrorism was a factor.
|Recovery workers lift the tail of a crashed Armenian airliner from the Black Sea near Sochi, Russia. (File Photo/Reuters)
Relatives of those aboard the plane were gathering at the Yerevan, Armenia, airport for a charter flight to Sochi later Wednesday morning.
The plane broke up on impact with the water, and wreckage was thrown into a wide arc, Kubinov said. Salvage workers said the fuselage was recovered at a depth of nearly 1,500 feet.
Search and rescue teams had pulled 18 bodies from the water, Kubinov said. None were wearing life jackets, indicating they did not have sufficient warning to prepare for an emergency landing.
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.
The plane disappeared from radar at about 2:15 a.m. local time during a flight from Yerevan to Sochi, Beltsov said. He said the plane went down while trying to make a repeat attempt at an emergency landing; the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian air control agency as saying that the plane's crew had not reported an 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.
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.