Russian emergency workers completed their search and cleanup operations at the site of a FlyDubai passenger plane crash, while scores of mourners gathered at the airport in the southern city of Rostov-on Don to leave candles, toys and flowers. FlyDubai flight FZ981 crashed early on Saturday in stormy weather while attempting a second landing in Rostov-on-Don, killing all 55 passengers and seven crew members on board.
A seven-minute recording of the final conversation between the pilots has revealed concerns about the weather before the Boeing 737-800 went down nose-first, at an angle of 60 degrees, and exploded when it hit the ground.
While the FlyDubai plane was circling, two other planes headed for Rostov-on-Don – one belonging to Russia’s Aeroflot and another to Czech Airlines – were diverted to the Krasnodar airport 250km away.
Russia’s state-run RT network tweeted a clip of what appeared to be a large explosion.
The plane’s flight path, as tracked by Flight Radar 24, shows that the plane made a number of turns near the Rostov-on-Don airport before the final attempted landing.
The search area for debris had been extended to 15 hectares, state news agency TASS reported yesterday citing the Emergencies Ministry.
The recovered flight recorders were sent to Moscow for investigation and Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said the airport was expected to reopen today.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
DNA samples were taken from relatives of the victims to help in their identification, officials said.
Officials in Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suggested the disaster was the result of poor weather conditions. But investigators will also look into whether pilot error or a technical malfunction could have caused the crash.
FlyDubai Chief Executive Ghaith al-Ghaith added at a news conference that the airlines was working closely with Russian authorities to identify the cause of the crash, and appealed for an end to speculation about the disaster.
“We have high confidence in the Russian authorities who are capable of managing local conditions for flights,” he said. “We fully trust the Russian authorities in this.”
FlyDubai said yesterday that it would pay $20,000 to the families of each of the 55 passengers.
The Dubai-based carrier identified the nationalities of the passengers as 44 Russians, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one from Uzbekistan. The pilot was from Cyprus and the co-pilot from Spain.
The fatalities included 33 women, 18 men and four children.
The plane was manufactured in 2011 and was last checked on January 21, an airline official said.
It was the first time a FlyDubai plane has crashed. In January 2015, a FlyDubai passenger jet was shot at while approaching the Iraq capital Baghdad.
l Roger Agnelli, the former head of the Brazilian mining giant Vale has died after his private jet crashed into a residential building in Sao Paulo, local media reported.
Agnelli, his wife and two of his children were among seven killed when his airplane slammed into the building around 1820 GMT on Saturday, minutes after taking off from an airport in northern Sao Paulo, an aviation official said.
Agnelli was credited with turning Vale into a major global success, making it Brazil’s biggest exporter and the world’s largest iron ore producer.
“The airplane fell with seven people onboard and all died on the spot. We’re looking for possible other victims. The residence’s owner was rescued,” firefighters reported.
Aviation authorities confirmed that Agnelli was the owner of the plane but could not provide a passenger list. – Al Jazeera