Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, declared a national day of mourning Saturday after officials confirmed a plane bound for St. Petersburg, Russia and carrying 224 passengers had crashed in Egypt early that morning.
The flight, Kogalymavia 9268, crashed in a mountainous region in central Sinai after disappearing from radar screens around 6:20 a.m., according to The New York Times.
The pilot had radioed that he needed to make an emergency landing because of technical problems, according to The Times.
Recently, there’s been an insurgency involving the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula where the plane crashed, and a branch of the group said Saturday it was behind the crash.
However, The New York Times noted that there’s no evidence that the Islamic State had the ability to take down a plane that was already at its cruising altitude.
Moreover, a security source in Sinai told Reuters that a “technical fault” caused the crash, and that the plane had landed “in a vertical fashion” — causing an unusual amount of burning.
“I now see a tragic scene,” an Egyptian security officer on the ground told Reuters. “A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats.”
“The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said.
The plane was carrying 214 Russian passengers and three Ukrainians. There were 138 women on board, 17 children, and 68 men.
They were flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and many were reportedly returning from vacation.
Russia’s top investigative committee has already begun a criminal investigation into Kogalymavia, the airline that operated the flight under the name Metrojet, Reuters reported.
The airline said Saturday there was no evidence human error caused the crash, and that the pilot had 12,000 hours of flying experience.
The plane had also been fully serviced, the airline said, according to Reuters.
Airbus, which made the plane, said Saturday the plane was an 18-year-old A321-200 that Metrojet had operated since 2012, according to Reuters.
Russia news media cited by The New York Times say the Airbus A-321 jet requested an emergency landing before it disappeared from radar.
The wreckage was eventually found in the Hasna district, south of the city of Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
The crash happened in what has been a tumultuous couple of years for the aviation industry.
Two Malaysia Airlines passenger jets were lost last year.
Flight MH370 disappeared. Parts of the wreckage were only recently found in August this year near an island in the Indian Ocean.
Flight MH17 from the same airline was believed to have been shot down over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine last July, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.
An Airbus 320 jet operated by Germanwings also dove into the side of a mountain in the Alps in March, killing 150 people.
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