July 10, 2006

Russia probes plane crash

By Ivan Stoyanov

IRKUTSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russian investigators
reconstructed the last moments of Sibir airlines flight 778 on
Monday while passengers' relatives prepared for the grim task
of identifying their loved ones among at least 122 people who

The Russian Airbus A-310, on a domestic flight from Moscow,
failed to stop after it touched down in the Siberian city of
Irkutsk on Sunday.

It careered off the runway, crashed through a concrete wall
into garage buildings and burst into flames.

Investigators hope the plane's "black box" flight
recorders, which were flown to Moscow, would yield vital
information about the tragedy that killed more than half the
203 people on board.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin told a news conference that
as of 0300 GMT, 122 bodies had been recovered from the
wreckage. Russian news agencies earlier reported that 124
bodies had been recovered.

Levitin said 57 people were in hospital with burns, trauma
and the effects of smoke inhalation.

Six people were still unaccounted for, he said. Officials
say at least 17 passengers, who escaped the crash, had left the
airport without seeking medical help.

Many of those on board were children, including 14 pre-teen
children, flying for holidays on Lake Baikal, a popular
Siberian spot in summer, media reported.

"It was awful. I saw people burning, they were burning,"
Margarita Svetlova, who survived the crash, told Russia's First
Channel television.

"I probably lost consciousness for a minute ... I
unfastened my seat belt. I ran and started shouting and
swearing, looking for an exit ... The inflatable escape chute
wouldn't inflate, but I jumped all the same. I was lucky, I
just hurt my leg a bit."

Sibir airlines published a list of 193 passengers, 8 crew
and two company officials on board at an emergency Web site,

Interfax news agency said that measures to identify the
bodies of people killed in the crash would begin on Monday

President Vladimir Putin declared Monday a day of mourning.