On Feb. 11, 2018, at approximately 11:30 p.m., citizens of Argunovo, a small Russian town located about 50 miles southeast from the city of Moscow, witnessed a Saratov Airlines jet crashing into a snowy field and erupting into a violent blaze. There were no survivors on the 71 passenger flight.
According to a report from BBC, the Antonov An-148 model airliner had recently departed from Domodedovo airport in Moscow, and was on its way to Orsk, a city in the Ural Mountains of Northern Russia.
According to statistics recovered from the plane’s flight data recorder, four minutes after take-off, the plane began an unexpected descent at a rate of 1,000 meters per minute and radar contact was lost.
Investigative Committee Spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said the An-148 airliner exploded on impact with the ground and did not break up while in the air according to USA Today.
In a statement released by Fox News, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov confirmed the deaths of all passengers aboard the flight ranging from 79 to 5 years of age.
A specific reason for the plane crash hasn’t been determined. According to CNN reporter Matthew Chance, “The Moscow region has had some of its heaviest snowfall in decades. It’s not clear at this stage whether weather was a factor in this crash.”
The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) said in a statement, “A factor in the development of a special situation in the flight could be the wrong data about flight speed on the pilots’ indicators, which was likely due to iced pitot tubes [speed probes] while their heating systems were shut off,” according to The Guardian.
Along with the hazardous conditions, technical failure and pilot error are possible explanations for the crash.
Valery Gubanov, the pilot, had logged over 5,000 hours of flying time throughout his career, and is an unlikely cause of the accident according to the article from USA Today.
The USA Today article also listed several controversial events from 2010 and 2011 where the Antonov An-148 passenger jet was heavily criticized for being unreliable and relatively dangerous. In one of the events, six crew members died during a test run held in 2011 over the Belgorod region of Russia as a result of the passenger jet crashing into the ground.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Russian President Vladimir Putin were both quoted in the article from CNN conveying their deepest condolences to anybody affected by the plane crash, with President Putin continuing on to inquire about what caused the crash to begin with.
In response to the event, family members of the An-148 passengers are set to receive at least $50,000, with several additional methods of compensation being considered for possible implementation.