Kazakh air crash kills 21: officials

All 21 people on board a domestic flight in Kazakhstan operated by SCAT airline died Tuesday when their jet crashed on approach to Almaty airport in thick fog, officials said.

"According to preliminary information, there were 16 passengers on board -- including one child -- and five crew members," the emergencies ministry said in a statement.

Both the airline and the prosecutor general's office had initially put the toll at 20 dead before revising it up by one.

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Television footage of the crash site showed the wreckage in a snow-covered field a few kilometres (miles) away from the financial centre's main airport.

The Canadian-made plane crashed just a few hundred metres (yards) from a major highway linking the airport to nearby cities.

The Interfax news agency said flights continued from Almaty airport even after the accident and that some jets flew directly over the Bombardier CRJ-200's wreckage.

The airline said the jet had made one approach to the airport and was about to rise again for a second approach when it suddenly veered off course and plunged to the ground.

"On behalf of the Kazakh people and myself, I express the deepest sympathies to the relatives and loved ones of those who died," Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said a statement released by his office.

The veteran Kazakh leader relayed his concerns about the recent spate of accidents affecting the aviation industry by appointing First Deputy Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev -- one of the most powerful people in government -- in charge of the probe.

SCAT said no further comment would be made until recovery workers had found and deciphered the "black box" flight data recorders.

Officials said they located the first of the two devices a few hours after the crash.

The Kazinform news agency reported that officials from both the interior and transportation ministries had travelled to the site of the crash.

Interfax said the plane was produced in 2000 and had last undergone scheduled repairs in June 2011. It added that the jet was then certified to fly until its next scheduled maintenance in September.

The Kazakh emergencies ministry added that the pilot had more than 18,000 hours of flight experience -- including about 1,000 hours flying the CRJ-200.

It was the second deadly aircraft accident to strike the fast-developing Central Asian nation in just over a month.

In December, 27 people were killed when their plane crashed in bad weather.

Aviation disasters remain a scourge across the former Soviet Union due to ageing hardware that often has not been replaced since before the fall of the Soviet regime.

SCAT operated three CRJ-200s in its small modern fleet until Tuesday's accident. Each plane can carry up to 50 passengers and is operated for small and medium-haul flights by major Western airlines.

Privately-owned SCAT was established in 1997 as the Special Cargo Air Transport company and has developed a solid safety reputation in Kazakhstan.

by Sayara MA-SHAN-LO © 2013 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Jan 29, 2013