Moscow – A five-year-old girl was among the dead after a Russian passenger plane crashed, killing all 71 on board.
The jet broke apart just minutes after leaving Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, according to witnesses.
Several children were among those killed, including Nadezhda Krasova, five, Evgeny Livanov, 12, and Ilya Poletayev, 17, local reports said.
The Saratov Airlines service was flying to Orsk, a city in the Urals near the Kazakhstan border, but crashed on the outskirts of Moscow on Sunday afternoon, claiming the lives of 65 passengers and six crew.
Witnesses in the village of Argunovo saw a burning plane falling from the sky,. Aviation website FlightRadar reported the aircraft was last measured falling at a rate of 22 000ft a minute. State television broadcast video of the crash site, showing parts of the wreckage in the snow. Debris was said to be scattered over more than a half-mile radius.
Russia has seen record high snowfalls in recent days and visibility was reportedly poor at the time of the crash.
However, if there was a mid-air structural failure, investigators are likely to be considering other explanations for the crash, including a terror attack. An emergency services source told Russian news agency Tass: “Among possible causes of the crash are weather conditions, pilot error or a technical malfunction.”
Also among the dead were 29-year-old air stewardess Anastasia Slavinskaya and co-pilot Sergey Gambaryan, 34. Others named victims include Ulyana Son, 28, Kriskentia Alexeenko, 25, and Lyudmila Kovchuga, 53, a doctor from Orsk.
Transport minister Maxim Sokolov said DNA tests would be needed to help identify all the dead. President Vladimir Putin offered his ‘profound condolences’ to the families of those on board.
Emergency workers rushing towards the wreckage were reportedly unable to reach the crash site by road, and had to walk to the scene.
The Russian-made plane, an Antonov An-148, was seven years old and bought by Saratov Airlines from another Russian airline a year ago.
Plane crashes are common in Russia, where airlines often operate ageing aircraft in testing flying conditions.