A passenger plane broke apart and caught fire after an emergency landing yesterday at Donetsk International Airport in eastern Ukraine, causing at least five fatalities. Twelve were also injured in the incident, although “most of the survivors were able to walk off the plane by themselves” according to Svytlana Borodyna, an emergency ministry spokesperson.
Russia-based news service RT said an early report indicated 45 people on the plane, which is an Antonov An-24 turboprop. However, Borodyna said there were 44 people on the 44-seater aircraft.
The aircraft reportedly came to rest in a field, approximately 700 metres off the runway. Its undercarriage broke, and it overturned and split in three. Multiple ambulances were sent to the scene.
The state emergency service said because the bodies of the deceased “sustained severe burns”, they have not been identified. “There are a lot of injured,” the statement added. Andrey Shishatsky, the governor of the Donetsk region, said “one man can be seen in the rubble but we do not know whether he is alive or not.” One other person, a flight attendant, may have been in the back end of the plane when it crash landed and is unaccounted for. 39 people have been rescued, according to the state emergency service, and subsequently transported to an airport terminal building.
The cause of the crash landing is unclear thus far. However, thick fog conditions were reported in Donetsk at the time. Whether the aircraft overshot the runway or skidded is also uncertain.
During 2011, Dmitry Medvedev — at that time the President of Russia — requested a halt to the use of Antonov An-24s, which are considered non-compliant with Ukraine’s current aircraft requirements; they lack an aerial object radar alert system.