A passenger plane carrying 28 people crashed in Russia’s far east on Tuesday, leaving everyone on board feared dead.
The plane was en route from regional capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana, a town in northwestern Kamchatka, when it lost contact with air traffic control shortly before 3:00pm local time.
There were 22 passengers and six crew on board the Antonov An-26 twin-engined turboprop, which had been in operation since 1982 and belonged to a company called Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise.
Most were residents of Palana, a town which is home to about 2,900 people and near the Sea of Okhotsk.
Russia’s civil aviation authority confirmed that the plane’s crash site had been found after the emergencies ministry dispatched a helicopter and deployed teams on the ground to look for the missing aircraft.
The operation located debris in the sea and on land, local officials said, but the death toll was not expected to be confirmed until Wednesday due to nightfall affecting responders’ efforts.
“The site is hard to access … it is dark here already,” Kamchatka’s governor, Vladimir Solodov, told the NTV television network. “Most likely, we will have an official confirmation only tomorrow.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the plane was thought to have hit a cliff as it was preparing to land in poor visibility conditions.
The plane was in fog and clouds on approach to Palana airport when it missed a scheduled communication and disappeared from radar.
Russia’s state aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, said that parts of the plane were found about five kilometres from the airport’s runway.
Part of the fuselage – the aeroplane’s main body – was found on the side of a mountain, Russia’s Pacific Fleet told local news agencies. Another part was located floating in the Okhotsk Sea.
Sergei Gorb, deputy director of Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, said the aircraft had “practically crashed into a sea cliff,” which was not supposed to be in its landing trajectory.
The director of Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, Alexei Khabarov, told Interfax that the plane was technically sound before taking off.
The An-26 model, which has for decades been the most reliable mode of transportation in the remote and sparsely populated regions.