Flydubai flight FZ981 has crashed in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don killing all 61 passengers and crew on board. The flight was en route from Dubai and crashed during its second landing approach amid poor weather conditions.
Air-traffic control and local emergency services confirmed that the Boeing 737-800 jet crashed near the runway during a second approach in conditions of poor visibility.
“According to preliminary data, the Boeing 738 crashed in poor visibility conditions, some 50-100 meters left of the runway,” the source said.
“The plane, according to preliminary data, crashed during the second approach,” the source told Interfax.
All crew and passengers on board the plane were killed in the crash, according to the regional Emergencies Ministry. According to preliminary reports there were 61 people on board, including six crew members.
“During the landing approach a Boeing-737 crashed. It had 55 passengers on board. All of them died,” a regional spokesman told TASS.
Initial reports suggested that all passengers on board were Russians, however the Emergencies Ministry later confirmed that 11 foreigners were on board the flight, including all the crew members.
— RT (@RT_com) March 19, 2016
CCTV camera footage posted on YouTube claims to have captured the moment of the explosion as the aircraft impacted the ground. However, its authenticity could not be immediately verified.
Emergency crews are working at the scene of the crash and have already put out the fire, according to a TASS source.
The airport is to remain closed until at least March 20, 7:00am Moscow time. The inbound flights are getting rerouted to Krasnodar.
According to a LifeNews source, the plane failed to land at the first approach and was forced to make a reentry. However, at this point the aircraft’s tail allegedly hit the ground. The Boeing then crashed and caught fire.
Flydubai confirmed that they are aware of an “incident involving our flight FZ981 from Dubai to Rostov On Don.”
“We are investigating further details and will publish an update once more information is available,” the airline added.
The Emergencies Ministry has opened up a hotline while a team of psychologists has been sent to help the grieving relatives.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a probe into the incident with preliminary data indicating that the plane disintegrated and caught fire upon touching the ground. Reports indicated that the debris were spread across the area of several kilometers.
A source in the Emergencies Ministry told TASS that all crew members of the FZ981 flight were nationals of the United Arab Emirates.
The fatal flight has been the aircraft’s third trip within the last 24 hours, Flight radar notes. The plane managed to make two flights from Dubai to Kiev and back, before heading for Rostov-on-Don.
A criminal case has been opened into the crash that will examine a possible “violation of traffic safety rules,” Prosecutor General’s office has announced.
Eleven foreigners were on board the flight, including all the crew members, Emergencies Ministry says.
Two of the flights that were scheduled to land in Rostov-on-Don airport before the Flydubai crash were diverted because of weather conditions, Flightradar24.com suggests. Another flight was diverted back to its origin airport in Istanbul.
An Aeroflot SU1166 flight from Moscow that was scheduled to land at 02:15 and Czech Airlines OK914 flight from Prague that was due at 03:25 were diverted to Krasnodar. Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul that was supposed to touch down at 03:55 was forced to return back to Turkey.
The wind velocity at the time of the crash was 22 meters per second, TASS reports.
Regional government will provide help to victims’ families, governor Vasily Golubev told reporters adding that already 17 medics are providing them with psychological support.
TASS correspondent reporting from the Russian consulate in Dubai says that according to preliminary data, three Ukrainians, one Tajikistan national and one Indian national could have been on board the plane. RIA’s sources meanwhile also report that at least five foreigners were inboard the Boeing.
FlyDubai has regretfully confirmed the crash that resulted in many fatalities, saying that the airline is “doing all we can to gather information as quickly as possible.”
“At this moment our thoughts and prayers are with our passengers and our crew who were on board the aircraft. We will do everything we can to help those who have been affected by this accident,” the company wrote on Facebook.
Rostov on Don airport is to remain closed until at least Sunday morning, the governor announced.
The regional governor has declared Sunday a day of grief.
The spokesperson for the UN Secretary General told Russian news outlets that Ban Ki-moon’s “thoughts” are with the families of the victims, and that he “hopes” that some passengers have survived.
The US-based Boeing corporation tweeted that they are aware of the tragedy and are gathering details.
“The plane completely disintegrated at the very beginning of the runway,” the local Emergencies Ministry chief, Igor Oder, said during a conference call held by the head of the Ministry, TASS reports.
According to a law enforcement source who spoke to LifeNews, a few moments before the crash the pilot of the aircraft reported that they were going to go for a second landing. These were his last words.
A government commission into the accident, headed by the Emergencies Ministry chief, is set to convene at 7:00 Moscow time.
According to the local Emergencies Ministry, more than 500 people are working the crash scene in addition to more than 60 pieces machinery. The ministry sent more than 400 rescue staff along with 34 pieces of equipment to help deal with the tragedy.
“The Boeing 737-800 is a mainstay veteran airplane,” John Cox, former pilot and chief executive officer, told RT. “It has been in service since the late 1960’s and enjoys an extremely good record. It is the most widely-used commercial jet in the world. It land frequently in difficult weather conditions,” he said, adding that Flydubai, despite being a young company, had a good record.
Cox, who himself flew Boeing 737 for about 15 years, was reluctant to second-guess the pilots’ acts leading up to the crash, saying that it was too early to speculate on whether “diversion would have been appropriate” even given tough weather conditions.
The Emergencies Ministry has confirmed that “regrettably everyone died” during the crash. The Ministry said that more 700 rescuers are now working the scene in addition to more than 90 pieces of machinery.
The flights from Rostov on Don are being diverted to Miniralny Vody Airport and Krasnodar air hubs.
The head of the Ministry, Vladimir Puchkov, gave clear orders to focus on the recovery of the black boxes of the plane and bodies from the wreckage.