The Latest: Russian plane to evacuate crash victims' remains

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2015 4:01 PM
The Latest: Russian plane to evacuate crash victims' remains

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — The latest developments after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board (all times local).

11:00 p.m.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry says that remains of the victims of the Russian plane crash in Egypt will be flown home soon.

Ministry officials said during a conference call Sunday that the bodies of the victims are being loaded into one of the ministry's planes for a flight home. The plane is expected to land in St. Petersburg early Monday.

Metrojet's Airbus A321-200 crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday morning 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. All 224 people on board were killed, the vast majority of them Russians.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry has sent more than 100 rescue experts to assist the Egyptian authorities in the search for bodies and debris of the plane.

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10:10 p.m.

A former safety engineer with Boeing says that when planes break up in mid-air it's usually due to one of three factors: a catastrophic weather event, a mid-air collision or an external threat, such as a bomb or a missile.

Todd Curtis says that if there are no indication that such events played a role in the crash, investigators will be looking at more unusual events, such as an on-board fire or corrosion that caused a structural failure.

Russia's top aviation official earlier Sunday said the Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt on Saturday had broken up at a high altitude.

Alexander Neradko, head of the federal aviation agency, said the large area over which fragments of the plane were scattered indicated that it disintegrated while flying high.

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7:45 p.m.

Qatar Airways is the latest airline to announce that it is re-routing flights to avoid flying over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after a Russian passenger jet crashed there, killing all 224 people onboard.

Qatar Airways says the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution" until there's more information about what caused the Metrojet charter flight to crash on Saturday. Germany's Lufthansa, Air France and Dubai-based Emirates have all said they are not flying over Sinai until there are more details.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways says it will continue operating over most of Sinai because there is "no evidence to suggest any ulterior motive in the tragic crash." However, it says it is avoiding "certain areas of airspace over the Sinai peninsula" affecting "only a handful" of flights on the advice of Egyptian authorities.

Russia's top aviation official, who is at the crash site, has said that the plane broke up at high altitude. But he wouldn't comment on what caused the crash, saying the probe is ongoing.

The plane's wreckage was found in northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces have for years battled local Islamic militants who in recent months claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.

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7:20 p.m.

An aviation official says the Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt had broken up at high altitude.

Alexander Fridlyand, an expert who leads a Moscow-based aviation research center, says in televised remarks Sunday that a quick plunge from high altitude may indicate that a plane was hit by a bomb explosion in its luggage compartment.

He says another possibility could be a malfunction in the plane's power system, which could have triggered a fire on board or the shutdown of both of the plane's engines.

The Metrojet A321-200 crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday morning 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. All 224 people on board were killed, the vast majority of them Russians.

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6:55 p.m.

Russia's transport minister says it hasn't been decided yet where the flight recorders for the crashed Russian Metrojet will be opened and deciphered.

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov also thanked Egyptian officials for their help and openness in dealing with all issues related to Saturday's plane crash in the Sinai. He spoke Sunday in televised remarks after inspecting the crash site along with other top Russian officials.

The plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders were recovered from the crash site, which spreads out over 16 square kilometers (over 6 square miles) some 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of the Egyptian city of el-Arish.

The Metrojet charter crashed Saturday morning 23 minutes after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, a top destination for Russian tourists. All 224 people on board died — the vast majority were Russians.

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6:15 p.m.

Russia's top aviation official says the Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt had broken up at high altitude.

Alexander Neradko, head of the federal aviation agency, said the large area over which fragments of the plane were scattered indicated that it disintegrated while flying high. Neradko wouldn't comment on any possible reason for the crash, saying the probe is ongoing.

Neradko is in Egypt to inspect the crash site along with two Russian Cabinet ministers.

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5:40 p.m.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Britain shares the "pain and grief" of the Russian people after the crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt.

Cameron's office said he spoke with Putin on Sunday morning and offered to aid the investigation into the cause of the crash Saturday that killed all 224 people on the Metrojet charter flight from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. He told Putin that Britain stands ready to help if needed.

Cameron's office said Putin thanked him for the offer but said Russian investigators were already at the crash site in Sinai. They are working with Egyptian, French, German and Airbus investigators.

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5:05 p.m.

Germany's transport ministry has warned the country's airlines not to use the same flight route above Egypt's southeastern Sinai Peninsula that a Russian plane took before it crashed.

A spokesman said Sunday that because of the crash Saturday that killed 224 people the ministry has issued "until further notice a broad warning ... for using a flight route in the southeastern Sinai."

The spokesman, who didn't give his name in line with department policy, said an already existing flight warning for northern Sinai, where Egypt is fighting an Islamic insurgency, would be kept in place.

German carrier Lufthansa, Air France and the Dubai-based Emirates have all announced they will no longer fly over the Sinai until the cause of the plane crash has been identified.

British Airways, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic all say they are operating as usual in the region. They have not cancelled any routes and will not comment on their flight paths.

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4:35 p.m.

Flags across Russia are flying at half-staff and Russian Orthodox priests are conducting services to pray for the victims of the plane crash in Egypt.

President Vladimir Putin has declared a nationwide day of mourning Sunday for the 224 victims, and authorities in St. Petersburg, home to most of the victims, ordered the mourning to last for three days.

The government said it would pay compensation to the victims' families and help organize funeral procedures. The Emergencies Situations Ministry said it will start delivering the victims' bodies to Russia later Sunday.

The Metrojet charter crashed Saturday morning into the Sinai Peninsula 23 minutes after taking off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people on board died. All were Russians except for four Ukrainians and one Belarusian.

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3:25 p.m.

The Vatican says Pope Francis is offering "the assurance of his prayers" for those who died in the Russian plane crash in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

It said in a statement Sunday that Francis "learned with sadness about the tragic crash" and in a telegram conveyed his condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people. Francis is also praying for those mourning the loss of their loved ones.

The Metrojet charter flight crashed Saturday 23 minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.

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3:15 p.m.

Germany's transport ministry has warned the country's airlines to avoid flying over both the northern and southeastern parts of the Sinai Peninsula following the crash of a Russian passenger plane.

A spokesman said Sunday that, because of Saturday's plane crash in Sinai that killed 244 people, the ministry has issued "until further notice a broad warning ... for using flight routes in the southeastern Sinai."

The spokesman, who didn't give his name in line with department policy, said his agency already had an existing flight warning for northern Sinai, where Egypt is fighting an Islamic insurgency.

German carrier Lufthansa, Air France and the Dubai-based Emirates have all announced they will no longer fly over the Sinai until the cause for the plane crash had been identified.

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1:55 p.m.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry says it has sent more than 100 emergency workers to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to help search for bodies and examine debris following the crash of a Russian passenger jet.

Metrojet's A321-200 crashed Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula 23 minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.

The Emergencies Ministry said Sunday its emergency teams were being accompanied by the Egyptian military through the restive northern Sinai, where Egypt is fighting an Islamic insurgency.

Russian officials say the rescue teams need to comb 16 square kilometers (over 6 square miles) to search for victims' bodies and plane wreckage.

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1:35 p.m.

Russia's air safety regulator has ordered the airline whose charter jet crashed in Egypt to suspend flights pending the probe.

Rostransnadzor, Russia's transport safety watchdog, on Sunday told Metrojet to ground its fleet of Airbus A321s following Saturday's crash.

Metrojet's A321-200 crashed in the Sinai Peninsula 23 minutes after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board. The victims were all Russians except for four Ukrainians and one person from Belarus.

The air safety agency said Metrojet needs to thoroughly analyze the situation and weigh all risks before a decision is made Monday on whether to allow the airline to resume flights.

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1:05 p.m.

Hundreds of people are bringing flowers and pictures to St. Petersburg's airport to commemorate the 224 victims of the Russian plane crash in Egypt.

Elena Vikhareva, 48, came Sunday with her son to lay flowers, saying "pain is piercing her heart" even though she had no relatives on the plane. Vladimir Povarov, 19, brought flowers with a friend, saying "we couldn't remain indifferent."

Other people were bringing planes made of paper, soft toys and pictures of the victims.

The Airbus A321-200 charter jet heading to St. Petersburg crashed Saturday in the restive Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 aboard, most of them Russians. It went down 23 minutes after taking off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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12:35 p.m.

Three Russian Cabinet ministers are inspecting the crash site of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Photos from the site, 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of the city of el-Arish, have shown heaps of smoldering debris dotting the barren terrain, including the plane's badly damaged sky blue tail. The Airbus A321-200 charter jet crashed Saturday, killing all 224 aboard, mostly Russians.

Spokeswoman Zhanna Terekhova says Sunday that Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov and Alexander Neradko, the head of the state civil aviation agency, will also be shown the plane's data and cockpit voice recorders.

An Egyptian official who inspected the plane says it was in good technical condition before it crashed 23 minutes after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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12:15 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered his condolences to President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people over a plane crash in Sinai that killed all 224 people on board.

Netanyahu says "this was a great disaster. We identify with the sorrow and are of course in constant touch with the government of Russia and the government of Egypt to try and figure out the circumstances of the case."

The plane, bound for St. Petersburg in Russia, crashed 23 minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Most victims were Russian.

A local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group said it "brought down" the aircraft, but Russia's transport minister dismissed the claim.

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11:55 a.m.

French air accident investigators have left for Egypt to join the investigation into the crash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai Peninsula.

France's BEA accident investigation agency is involved because the Airbus A321-200 jet was designed in France. A BEA official said the team, including two BEA investigators and six technical advisers from Airbus, was arriving Sunday.

The BEA said the team would be joined by two investigators from its German counterpart BFU, because the plane was manufactured in Germany, and four investigators from its Russian counterpart MAK, because the plane was operated by a Russian company.

The crash early Saturday killed all 224 people onboard a Metrojet charter flight from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg in Russia. Most victims were Russians.

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11:40 a.m.

An Egyptian ground service official who examined the Russian passenger plane that crashed Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula before takeoff says it appeared to be in good condition.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A Russian TV channel on Saturday quoted the wife of the co-pilot as saying her husband had complained about the plane's condition.

Another Egyptian official had previously said that before the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers the pilot had radioed and said the aircraft was experiencing technical problems and that he intended to try and land at the nearest airport.

A local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group claimed it "brought down" the aircraft, but Russia's transport minister dismissed the claim.

The plane, bound for St. Petersburg in Russia, crashed 23 minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people on board died.

— Nour Youssef in Cairo

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9:25 a.m.

Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East's biggest carrier, says it has stopped flying over Egypt's Sinai until more is known about the crash of a Russian airliner in the rugged peninsula.

The airline made the announcement Sunday, the day after the crash of the Russian plane, which had taken off 23 minutes earlier from the popular Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people on board died.

The cause of the crash was not yet known. A local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group claimed it "brought down" the aircraft, but Russia's transport minister dismissed the claim.

Two major European airlines, Germany's Lufthansa and Air France, said Saturday that they would immediately stop flying over Sinai for safety reasons until the cause of the crash was determined.

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This story has been corrected to say Fridlyand is an expert, not Russia's top aviation official.