Sixteen dead in skydiver plane crash in Russia

Pilots reported engine failure and requested emergency landing shortly after take-off

Sixteen people have been killed in a plane crash after an aircraft carrying parachutists crashed in central Russia.

The L-410 plane carrying 22 people crashed near Menzelinsk in the republic of Tatarstan, the emergencies ministry said on its Telegram channel.

The aircraft broke in half in the crash, which took place at about 9.23am local time on Sunday. The pilots had reported an engine failure and requested an emergency landing shortly after take-off, said Tatarstan head Rustam Minnikhanov, who travelled to the scene.

“Six people were rescued, 16 were taken out without signs of life,” the ministry said.

The six survivors were taken to hospital, Interfax news agency reported the local health ministry as saying.

Mr Minnikhanov said the plane tried to avoid a nearby residential area as it approached for landing, but “the altitude didn't allow it".

The plane hit a parked van with its wing and turned over. All the survivors were sitting in the back of the plane, club instructor Oleg Shiporov told Tass news agency.

Russian authorities have begun a criminal investigation into the cause of the crash and Monday has been declared a day of mourning in Tatarstan.

The plane belonged to the Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Navy of Russia, which describes itself as a sports and defence organisation. according to Interfax. The organisation was created in the 1920s and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel to space in 1961, has trained on its airfields.

The head of the Menzelinsk parachuting club said that it was not to blame for the accident.

“We are the best, we are among the top five clubs,” Ravil Nurmekhametov told Tass news agency. He said the club had hosted European and World championships. “Cosmonauts train here,” he said.

Tass cited a source as saying the state Cosmonauts Training Centre has suspended its work with the club pending the investigation.

In 2018, two amateur skydivers were killed in a group free-fall jump at the Menzelinsk club after their parachutes got tangled. The Czech-built L-410 light aircraft was one of the two planes used by the club, its website said.

Two L-410 planes suffered fatal accidents in Russia earlier this year, leaving a total of eight people dead.

Russia was notorious for plane accidents but has improved air traffic safety in recent years, with major airlines switching from Soviet aircraft to modern jets. But poor maintenance and safety standards still lead to frequent accidents in far-flung regions involving light aircraft, with occasional large-scale tragedies.

Updated: October 11th 2021, 7:29 AM