Russian plane crash leaves 44 dead

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Forty-four people were killed when a passenger jet crashed in heavy fog and burst into flames on a main road in north-western Russia, just short of a runway whose high-intensity lights had failed.

The Tu-134 plane, belonging to the RusAir airline, was on its way from Moscow to the city of Petrozavodsk, said Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Oksana Semyonova.

The ministry said eight survivors, including a 10-year-old boy and a female flight attendant, were in hospital in critical condition in Petrozavodsk.

The plane went down on its final approach to the airport in Petrozavodsk, making a crash landing about a mile short of the runway, breaking apart and then bursting into flames. It was not clear if the pilot had tried to land on the road.

Petrozavodsk is in the province of Karelia, near the Finnish border, about 400 miles north west of Moscow.

Authorities had no immediate explanation for the accident, but the Interfax news agency quoted the airport director Alexei Kuzmitsky as saying there were “unfavourable weather conditions”.

Alexei Morozov, deputy head of the Interstate Aviation Committee, told the ITAR-Tass news agency the pilot’s problems were compounded by the failure of the runway’s high-intesity illumination, which is supposed to be deployed at times of low visibility, .

A RusAir representative said the plane was in good working order and that the weather conditions, although tricky, “weren’t critical”.

Photographs on the ministry website showed fragments of metal strewn across a road as a thick fog hung over woodland in the background. Landing gear jutting out from the ground was the only recognisable plane part.

The plane was carrying 52 people, including nine crew members, Ms Semyonova said. Russian news agencies said Russian Premier League soccer referee Vladimir Pettay and a Swedish citizen were among the victims.

The black box flight data recorders had been recovered.