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Tu-154 jetliner of Pulkovo Airlines sent four May Day signals
Tu-154 jetliner of Pulkovo Airlines, which crashed near Donetsk on Tuesday, sent four May Day signals, three from the height of 11,500 meters and one from the height of 3,000, Deputy General Director of Pulkovo Airport Anatoly Samoshin said. “Three May Day signals were sent from the height of about 11,500 meters. Then the plane dived, and another May Day signal was sent from the height of about 3,000 meters,” he said. The plane was carrying 171 people, a source at the Ukrainian Air Force told Itar-Tass with the reference to the crashed plane’s crew. “The crew sent the May Day signal and said that the liner was carrying eleven crewmembers and 160 passengers, including 40 children. The plane was making an emergency landing near Donetsk,” he said. Bad weather might have caused the accident. Donetsk residents confirmed a thunderstorm during the crash. Possibly, the plane entered a turbulent spot and the crew tried to avoid a thundercloud by climbing from 9,000 meters. The jetliner of Pulkovo Airlines en route from Anapa to St. Petersburg crashed 45 kilometers north of Donetsk on Tuesday. The crash occurred near the village of Novgorodskoye at about 3:33 p.m. Moscow time. All people onboard died, First Deputy General Director of Donetsk Airport Leonid Manukovsky said. An airline source told Itar-Tass that the plane was carrying 45 children smaller than 12, including six babies younger than 24 months. President Vladimir Putin was immediately informed about the accident. He ordered Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to form a state commission for investigating the accident and giving assistance to families of the crash victims. Transport Minister Igor Levitin was put in charge of the commission. “Representatives of the Transport Ministry, the Federal Aviation Service, the Federal Transport Supervisory Service and the International Aviation Committee are headed for the crash scene,” said a source at the governmental press service. St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko presented profound condolences to families and friends of the dead and said that the St. Petersburg government and Pulkovo Airlines will bear the funeral expenditures. The crash scene has been found, and 59 firemen are putting down the blaze. Thirteen vehicles and two helicopters are engaged in the operation, a source at the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Ministry said. There are several theories of the crash. The Russian Transport Ministry does not rule out that major turbulence might have caused the accident. The Main Air Traffic Controlling Department said that the plane was passing through a thunderstorm. “The thunderstorm goes on. The jetliner was bypassing a thunder cloud and climbing from the height of 9,000 meters,” the department said. On the other hand, spokesman for the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Ministry Igor Krol said that the plane caught fire before falling, and the pilots were trying to land without retrieving the undercarriage. Information about the flight height is being updated, and some say it was flying at 10,000 meters. Russian Consul General to Kharkov Andrei Yakovlev has gone to the crash scene. He said by phone that a crisis center had been set up at the consulate general for giving information about the deceased passengers. The consulate general also opened a hotline, the same as the Anapa airport and St. Petersburg. According to Yakovlev, representatives of the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Ministry and the Donetsk regional administration have gone to the accident site. “There is no contact with them so far, as mobile phone services are not available in some areas of the region,” he said. The Tu-154 jetliner of Pulkovo Airlines, which crashed near Donetsk on Tuesday, was carrying foreigners, including Dutch residents, acting head of the St. Petersburg emergency situations department Leonid Belyayev said. Family members will go to Donetsk on Wednesday for identifying the crash victims. There have been other Tu-154 crashes over the past six years. On July 3, 2001, a Tu-154 of Vladivostok-Avia crashed near Irkutsk. The plane was en route from Yekaterinburg to Vladivostok. The crash killed all the 136 passengers and nine crewmembers. On October 4, 2001, a Tu-154 of Sibir Airline crashed above the Black Sea. The plane en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk was carrying 51 Israeli citizens, 15 Russians and 12 crewmembers. All of them died. The plane was accidentally shot down by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile during exercises in the Crimea. On July 2, 2002, a collision of a Tu-154 liner of Bashkortostan Airlines and a Boeing 757 cargo jet of DHL killed 71 people, including 52 schoolchildren from Bashkortostan. On August 24, 2004, two passenger planes crashed after taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. A Tu-154 of Sibir Airline crashed in the Rostov region on the way to Sochi. A Tu-154 of Volga-AviaExpress headed for Volgograd crashed in the Tula region almost at the same moment. The two crashes killed 90 people. Investigators said it was terrorist acts. The Tu-154 passenger jet with the takeoff weight of 100 tonnes is the most broadly used Russian plane. It can carry up to 180 passengers to the distance of 3,900 kilometers at the speed of 850-900 kilometers per hour. Three turbofan engines are located in the rear part of the plane. The fuselage is 163 square meters large. The passenger cabin is 3.5 meters wide, and the plane is about 50 meters long. The plane has been used on domestic and international routes since 1972.
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