KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A passenger plane carrying soccer fans headed for a match skidded past the landing strip and overturned in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, killing five people, officials said.
The small, Soviet-designed AN-24 plane was carrying 44 passengers and crew from the Black Sea port of Odessa when it crash-landed shortly after 6 p.m. local time, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website.
The plane was operated by the small Southern Airlines company, which mostly runs domestic flights out of Odessa.
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear and senior officials were dispatched to Donetsk to investigate.
One of the survivors, a man in his 20s who identified himself by his first name Oleg, said in a video interview posted on the Ukrainian news site Korrespondent that the plane "split open" and caught fire during landing. Many of the passengers escaped the burning plane through the whole that emerged as a result. Oleg said that according to preliminary information, the crash could have been caused by engine failure during landing.
"It was horrible," said Oleg, visibly shaken. "This situation needs to be dealt with."
Oleg as well as regional officials said the plane was filled mostly with football fans heading for the Wednesday night Champions League football match between Ukraine's Shakhtar and Borussia Dortmund. The match opened with a minute of silence in memory of the dead.
In recent years, former Soviet republics have had some of the world's worst air traffic safety records. Experts blame that record on the age of the aircraft, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.