The wreckage of an aircraft that went missing on Tuesday morning has been found on the coastline of Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka peninsula.
The Antonov An-26 plane was carrying twenty eight people, including six crew, when it crashed. None are believed to have survived.
Debris from the twin-engined turboprop aircraft was spotted on the side of a mountain 4km (2.5 miles) from the plane’s destination, Palana, in the north of the remote peninsula. Another part of the fuselage was found floating in the Okhotsk sea, rescuers said.
The plane was due to land just before 1pm local time, but lost contact with air traffic control in bad weather shortly before final approach.
Sergei Gorb, deputy director of Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, said the plane “practically crashed into a sea cliff” not supposed to be in its landing trajectory. A severe side-wind may have contributed to the outcome, he suggested.
Russia’s aviation authority confirmed that conditions at the time of scheduled landing were difficult. Mountains around the airport had been enveloped in clouds, they reported, and there was fog from 300m upwards.
Other anonymous sources pinned the blame on the pilot, suggesting he had been disorientated by the bad weather.
“One working theory is that the aircraft could have crashed because of pilot error or bad visibility,” one such source, attributed to the emergency services, told a local news agency. There had been no warning of a malfunction, which indicated a “fast-moving situation”.
The Antonov-26 is a twin-engined plane. Produced in the USSR between 1969 and 1986, it has been involved in a substantial number of fatal accidents, with 132 total loss accidents reported as of 2021.
In 2012, an Antonov An-28 plane belonging to Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise crashed into a mountain while flying the same route as Tuesday’s flight.
A total of 14 people were on board and 10 of them were killed. Both pilots, who were among the dead, were found to have alcohol in their blood.
The plane in question was a passenger modified version of the An-26, and has been operational since 1982.
In comments to local news agencies, Alexei Khabarov, director of the operating company, Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise, insisted the plane was technically sound before taking off from the regional capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Olga Mokhireva, the head of the local government in Palana, was confirmed among the presumed dead, a spokesperson for the Kamchatka government said.
A probe into the incident has already been launched, with helicopters, an aircraft and several ships deployed to the crash site.
(With additional reporting from agencies)
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