At least 31 people were killed on board a Russian passenger plane in Siberia that crashed shortly after it took off, media reports said.
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry told state-run RT TV on Monday that there were 43 people on board the plane departing from the city of Tyumen to the oil city of Surgut.
The 12 heavily injured survivors were taken to a nearby hospital to undergo surgery. Nine of the injured passengers have completed surgery and are said to be in grave but stable condition, the broadcaster said.
Investigators said the crash may have been caused by a technical failure. Witnesses said they spotted smoke coming from the aircraft’s engines before the crash.
“This version of events is also supported by the fact that the crew turned back to Tyumen airport almost instantly after the takeoff,” said spokesman of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, according to RT. They ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack, but said pilot error could have been a factor.
UTair, the privately owned airliner that operated the flight, said it would pay 2 million rubles ($67,900) to relatives of each crash victim, according to Radio Free Europe.
“We have set up an operational headquarters and committed all the necessary resources,” Tyumen Oblast Gov. Vladimir Yakushev said, according to Radio Free Europe. “As you can see, investigators and transport police are working on the site, they are documenting the scene now. The main task now is the identification [of the victims] and notifying their next of kin.”