Russia plane crash: Search operation ends at Rostov-on-Don airport

The search operation at the site where a passenger plane crashed in southern Russia ended Sunday, with investigators moving on to the cause of the accident and identification of bodies, officials said.Flight FZ981 from the United Arab Emirates was attempting to land early Saturday when it crashed about 800 feet from a runway.The flydubai plane had aborted an initial scheduled landing and circled for more than two hours in poor weather conditions above Rostov-on-Don airport.It crashed on its second attempt to touch down, killing all 62 people aboard the flight from Dubai.Russian state media reported strong winds and poor visibility at the time.

Russia’s Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov announced the end of the airport search operation Sunday.The ministry will focus on helping Russia’s investigative committee, interstate aviation committee, insurers and Boeing representatives, Deputy Emergencies Minister Leonid Belyaev said.”We shall also continue studying the plane’s fragments to clear out reasons of the crash, will continue working on identification of the bodies, on collecting the DNA, and working with the families of the victims,” it quoted him as saying.Russia has declared Sunday a day of mourning in the Rostov administrative region, which borders the Sea of Azov and eastern Ukraine.

“State flags of Russia, flags of the region and municipalities will be flown at half-mast across the region. An event dedicated to the memory of the victims will be held outside the international terminal of the Rostov airport,” a regional official said, according to TASS.TASS said Russia’s transport minister and the regional governor would be among those attending the event.

Flydubai said 44 of the passengers who died were Russians, along with eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbekistani.Thirty-three of the passengers were women, 18 were men and four were children.Flydubai will provide “hardship payments” of $20,000 per passenger to relatives of those killed in the crash, the airline said Sunday.It said the payments were in accordance with its conditions and would help address immediate financial needs.

“Our priority is to identify and contact the families of those lost … and provide immediate support to those affected,” the airline said in a statement.Russian state media earlier reported that family members of the victims would receive 1 million rubles (about $15,000) from Moscow.Authorities have ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash.

The Russian Investigative Committee has said it will be looking at three possibilities: technical issues, severe weather and human error.Its investigation will take at least two months, as required by Russian law, according to state-run Sputnik news.Investigators will also be coming from the UAE and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, alongside technical advisers from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.

Flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith told reporters Saturday the plane had passed a comprehensive inspection on January 21.The pilots were “quite experienced,” he said. The Cypriot captain had flown 5,965 hours while the Spanish co-captain had 5,769.Ghaith said he was not aware of a distress call made.As far as the airline knew, he said, “the airport was open and we were good to operate.”


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