31 Oct 2015

No survivors after Russian passenger plane crashes in Sinai

A Metrojet airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashes in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. Russia says claims of terrorist involvement are inaccurate.

Metrojet airliner photographed on 17 September (Reuters)
  • Islamist group claims responsibility
  • Putin declares day of mourning
  • Security sources say no indication of terror attack

The Airbus A-321 was being operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia, which also trades as Metrojet.

Flight KGL-9268 was flying from the popular Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it went down in a mountainous area of the desert region shortly after daybreak on Saturday.

Egyptian search and rescue teams found the plane in the Hassana area, 22 miles south of the Mediterranean coastal city Arish.

An officer on the ground told reporters that rescuers had heard voices in a section of the plane, which had split in two.

He said: “There is another section of the plane with passengers inside that the rescue team is still trying to enter and we hope to find survivors especially after hearing pained voices of people inside.”

But medical and security sources later said none of 17 children, 200 adult passengers and seven crew members had survived.

Team members are still gathering the remains of victims, the sources said.

The Egyptian authorities said they had found the plane’s “black box”, which records flight information.

Position of flight KGL-9268 when it disappeared (Picture: Flightradar24)

Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said in a statement that the aircraft took off shortly before 6am local time and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later. It was flying at 31,000ft (9,400m) when it vanished.

‘No indication of terror attack’

An Islamist group claimed responsibility for downing the plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai in a statement circulated on Twitter and on the Aamaq website – which acts as a semi-official news agency for the Islamic State militants.

But Russia’s Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov told the Interfax news agency: “In various media there is assorted information that the Russian passenger (plane)… was supposedly shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, fired by terrorists. This information can’t be considered accurate.”

Civil aviation minister Mohamed Hossam Kemal said it was “too soon to determine the cause” of the crash.

Egyptian security sources said there was no indication that the Airbus jet had been shot down or blown up.

Sinai is well-known as a hotbed of Islamic militancy, with supporters of the Islamic State group killing hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police over the last two years, as well as attacking Western targets.

North Sinai security sources later initial examinations suggested the crash was due to a technical fault.

The sources said around 150 bodies were found scattered in a three-mile radius from the crash site. The plane fell vertically, which led to large sections
burning, they added.

Day of mourning

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expresses his deepest condolences to the families of victims, and has ordered Russian ministries to offer immediate assistance to relatives.

Mr Putin later declared 1 November a national day of mourning.

Russia’s top investigative committee has launched a case against the airline under an article regulating “violation of rules of flights and preparations for them”.

Russian media said the state transport regulator Rostransnadzor found violations when it last conducted a routine flight safety inspection of Kogalymavia, but the company had remedied the breaches.

The state-run television station Rossiya 24 reported that state officials were searching the airline’s offices in Moscow and had seized documents.