Russian plane crashed in Black Sea—search operation continues
By gerard On December 26, 2016
A philanthropist doctor, a civil servant, eight soldiers, eight crew members, nine journalists and 64 members of the famous Russian army choir-Alexandrov Ensemble-are now believed to be dead after the plane crashed into the Black Sea last Sunday, Dec. 25. In separate reports from BBC and Russian News Agency, TASS, a Tu-154 plane carrying 84 passengers and eight crew members departed last Sunday from Sochi Adler Airport at 5:25 a.m. local time and was headed for Latakia in Syria when it disappeared from radar a few minutes after takeoff. The plane, originally from Moscow, stopped at Sochi to refuel, ended up crashing off the coast of Sochi. Debris from the plane crash was found 50-70 meters under water and 1.5 kilometers from the shore. Initial search operations found four large fragments of the aircraft a mile off shore, including two parts of the control system. The plane's black box has not been found yet according to Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov. As of this writing, the cause of the plane's crash is still unknown.
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According to RT, Russia's Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov stated that they are casting off any doubts or suspicions of a terrorist act that may have possibly caused the plane crash. The Russian Federal Security Service added that no factual indicators of a terrorist act have been found yet. Minister Sokolov also stated that only a special Ministry of Defense committee investigation could accurately provide the cause of the plane crash. He also assumed that a technical failure or human error may have caused the accident.
The famous Alexandrov Ensemble is the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces. The choir was supposed to perform for Russian troops in a military base close to Latakia in Syria for a Christmas celebration when they boarded the Tu-154 plane. Formed in 1928 by Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Alexandrov, they were considered to be one of the world's greatest male choirs. A YouTube video of the choir's rendition of "Skyfall," a James Bond movie theme, reached thousands of views. Moreover, RT stated that aside from three lead vocalists, all members of the choir were on the ill-fated flight that crashed last Sunday.
Another passenger of the plane was Elizaveta Glinka, executive director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund. Glinka, also known as Dr. Liza, was a well-known activist and was awarded a state prize in Russia for her active involvement in human rights advocacies. She was supposed to visit Tishrin hospital in Latkia the morning of the crash.
Al Jazeera noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Monday as a national day of mourning and appeared on TV stating, "We will conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons and will do everything to support the victims' families."
CNN mentioned in that 135 divers were part of a 3,500 strong search-and-rescue operation force currently working on the crash site. The search operation is being carried out using 39 ships and cutters, seven submersible vehicles and several aircrafts. As of this writing, the Associated Press accounts 11 bodies and several body parts are recovered so far and are currently in Moscow to be identified.