The pilots of a Russian passenger plane have been hailed as heroes after they saved all 19 people on board after they were forced to crash land in Siberia.
The Antonov An-28 aircraft with four children on board had disappeared from radars on a one hour 20 minute flight in the Tomsk region in western Siberia earlier on Friday.
A major rescue operation was launched and the badly damaged plane was spotted from the air. Rescuers reported that all on board were alive.
Pilots Anatoly Prytkov, 56, and Faruh Khasanov, 32, were credited with saving all the lives after a crash landing in rough terrain.
‘The site of the plane’s hard landing was discovered. They see living people,’ Russia’s emergencies ministry said in a statement.
Three emergency Mi-8 helicopters were scrambled to search for the plane which was later found, officials said.
The survivors will be airlifted from the crash site after the pilots managed to found a spot to land amid swamps, said reports.
The An-28 is a small, short-range, Soviet-designed turboprop used by many small carriers across Russia and some other countries.
The plane belonged to the local Sila airline and was flying from the town of Kedrovoye to the city of Tomsk in a journey which usually takes one hour twenty minutes.
The flight crew had not reported any problems before the plane disappeared, officials said, but the plane’s emergency beacon activated, signaling that it had a forced landing or crashed.
‘Communication was lost to the An-28 plane from the company Siberian Light Aviation,’ said an emergency services spokesman.
The incident comes 10 days after another Russian plane crashed while preparing to land in bad weather on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, killing all 28 people on board.
Russia, once notorious for plane accidents, has improved its air traffic safety record in recent years.
But poor aircraft maintenance and lax safety standards still persist, and the country has seen several deadly air accidents in recent years.