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A Russian regional jet carrying 71 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (DME) on Sunday afternoon. No survivors have been found.
The plane, a Ukranine-made Antonov An-148, was bound for Orsk, Russia (OSW) designated as Flight 703 and operated by Saratov Airlines, a Russian carrier. The aircraft took off around 2:22pm local time (6:22am Eastern) but began losing altitude about 5 minutes into the flight.
According to data from FlightRadar24, the plane was falling rapidly right before the crash, dropping from 6,200 feet to 3,200 feet in a minute and then plummeting at a rate of 22,000 feet per minute in the final seconds.
Wreckage from the plane was found near the villages of Argunovo and Stepanovskoe in the Ramenskoye District, according to Russian news agencies, about 25 miles from the departure airport. No survivors were found; all 65 passengers and six crew members on-board are believed to have perished. The UK Daily Star reported that eyewitnesses told local media they saw the plane on fire before crashing, but those reports are yet to be confirmed.
Originally some Russian news agencies reported that wreckage of a helicopter had also been found at the site, leading to speculation of a mid-air collision with the Saratov flight. However, at least one of those reports has since been withdrawn, and the Russian Emergencies Ministry has denied that any crashed helicopter was found at the site. The cause of the crash remains unclear.
Saratov Airlines is a small carrier with a fleet of 12 aircraft, including four An-148s. The plane involved in the crash was built in 2010 and originally flown by Rossiya Airlines. After being stored from 2015-2017 due to lack of available parts, the aircraft was leased by Saratov starting in February 2017. The aircraft had only experienced two minor incidents during its lifespan before the crash.
The state-run news agency RIA Novosti stated that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has expressed his condolences and ordered his cabinet to create a commission to investigate the crash.
Featured image by Stanislav Krasilnikov / Getty Images.