Egypt plane crash: Recovery workers describe 'tragic scene' with victims still strapped to their seats in wreckage

The bodies of at least five children have been recovered from the wreckage in Sinai so far

Lizzie Dearden
Saturday 31 October 2015 13:42 GMT

The first rescuers arriving at the site of a plane crash that killed 224 people including more than a dozen children in Egypt have described the “tragic", where passengers had died still strapped in their seats.

The Airbus A321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia, was just over 20 minutes into its flight from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it disappeared from radar on Saturday morning.

Search teams found the wreckage in a remote mountainous region of North Sinai, around 30 miles from where the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing after reporting technical difficulties.

Video: Russian plane crashes in Egypt

“I now see a tragic scene. A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats,” a security official told Reuters.

“The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside.”

Initial reports claimed that the voices of survivors were heard from inside the wreckage but Egyptian authorities later confirmed that all 217 passengers, including 17 children, and seven crew members had died.

They were believed to be mainly Russian citizens, with at least three Ukrainians, and mostly tourists flying home from holidays in Egypt’s Red Sea resorts.

Roughly three million Russians visit the country every year, with many going to Sharm el-Sheikh.

The resort lies at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, which is the scene of an ongoing Islamist insurgency, although authorities have insisted that resorts are safe.

The plane went down in an area where Islamist militants, including Isis affiliate Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, are active but security sources said there was no indication that it had been shot down or blown up.

According to FlightRadar24, a Sweden-based flight tracking service, the aircraft was descending rapidly at about 6,000 feet per minute before it disappeared from radar.

“It was climbing quite normally when after 23 minutes when it passed 30,000ft it suddenly started to lose speed,” he said.

“It went down from 400 knots to 62 knots and then it suddenly started to drop very fast…after about 20 seconds we lost the signal from this aircraft.”

The crashed Kogalymaviais Airbus A321 at Domodedovo international airport, outside Moscow, Russia, on 20 October

The plane’s black box recorders have been recovered and will be used to work out what happened in its final moments.

An official from Egypt’s Aviation Incidents Committee said the plane had undergone pre-flight checks but the pilot of flight 9268 had reported technical difficulties and planned an emergency landing at the nearest airport before losing contact with air traffic controllers.

Russia's Investigative Committee, the country's top investigative body, has opened an investigation into possible violations of flight safety procedures.

President Vladimir Putin sent officials to the crash site and expressed his condolences to the victims’ families, declaring Sunday a national day of mourning in Russia.

The Egyptian Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, was heading to the crash site with several cabinet ministers on a private jet as relatives and friends waited for information at St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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