62 killed as flydubai 737 jet crashes in south Russia

Rostov-on-don, Mar 19: A Boeing passenger jet operated by the flydubai budget airline crashed in southern Russia early today, killing all 62 people on board, including an Indian couple, as it tried to land in bad weather, officials said.

Passengers killed in the crash include 2 Indians, 44 Russians, 8 Ukrainians and one from Uzbekistan. The Indians killed in the crash were identified as Mohan Shyam and wife Anju Kathirvel Aiyappan.

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The Boeing 737, which flew from Dubai to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, was reportedly making its second attempt to land at 0050 GMT (0620 IST) after circling for several hours.

It missed the runway and erupted in a huge fireball as it crashed, leaving debris scattered across a wide area.

"My whole house shook. I looked out into the yard and the sky was all red -- it was a shade of red that I have never seen," eyewitness Yana, who lives near the airport, told AFP.

Russia's Investigative Committee confirmed that all 55 passengers and seven crew members on board were killed. It launched a probe into whether technical problems, pilot error, poor weather or a combination of problems were behind the crash.

Flydubai chairman Ghaith al-Ghaith expressed "devastation" over the disaster and sought to head off any "speculation" that the crash was the result of terrorism.

"We do not yet know all the details of the incident but we are working closely with the authorities to establish precisely what happened," Ghaith said in statement.

A no-frills budget carrier which is a sister firm to Emirates Airlines, flydubai is government-owned and was set up in March 2008.

The passengers on board flight FZ981, which took off from Dubai at 1820 GMT Friday and had been due to land at 2240 GMT, included 44 Russian nationals, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbek, the airline said.

They comprised 33 women, 18 men and four children. The company said the Cypriot pilot and Spanish co-pilot each had nearly 6,000 hours of flying experience.

The five other crew members were from Spain, Russia, the Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan. Inside the international terminal at Rostov-on-Don airport, local residents laid flowers in front of a list of the victims, as shocked relatives tried to digest the news.

"I turned on the news and for some reason thought it was a terrorist attack but it turned out to have been here right at the airport," said bereaved relative Alexander Chistyakov.

"My brother was fifteen years older than me. He was a succesful surgeon in the local hospital. It is such a loss."

Footage aired on local media showed a huge fireball engulfing a wide area after the plane came down. The authorities took more than an hour to get the blaze under control, the emergencies ministry said. 


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