By Jim Heintz
MOSCOW -- A passenger airliner crashed and caught fire Sunday night while trying to land at the airport in the Russian city of Kazan, killing all 50 people aboard, officials said.
The Boeing (BA) 737 belonging to Tatarstan Airlines was trying to make a second landing attempt when it touched the surface of the runway near the control tower, and was "destroyed and caught fire," said Sergei Izvolky, the spokesman for the Russian aviation agency.
A spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry, Irina Rossius, said there were 44 passengers and six crew members aboard the flight from Moscow and all had been killed.The ministry released a list of the dead, which included Irek Minnikhanov, the son of Tatarstan's governor, and Alexander Antonov, who headed the Tatarstan branch of the Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB. Kazan, a city of about 1.1 million and the capital of the Tatarstan republic, is about 450 miles east of Moscow. The republic is one of the wealthier regions of Russia because of its large deposits of oil. It is also a major manufacturing center, producing trucks, helicopters and planes. About half of the people who live in the republic are ethnic Tatars, most of whom are Muslims. The ministry released photographs from the nighttime crash scene showing parts of the aircraft and debris scattered across the ground. A journalist who said she had flown on the same aircraft from Kazan to Moscow's Domodedovo airport earlier in the day told Channel One state television that the landing in Moscow had been frightening because of a strong vibration during the final minutes of the flight. "When we were landing it was not clear whether there was a strong wind, although in Moscow the weather was fine, or some kind of technical trouble or problem with the flight," Lenara Kashafutdinova said. "We were blown in different directions, the plane was tossed around. The man sitting next to me was white as a sheet." Russia has seen a string of deadly crashes in recent years. Some have laid to the use of aging aircraft, but industry experts point to a number of other problems, including poor crew training, crumbling airports, lax government controls and widespread neglect of safety in the pursuit of profits.