December 23, 2005

Azeri plane crashes, 23 killed – officials

By Lada Yevgrashina

BAKU (Reuters) - Twenty-three people were killed when an
Azeri passenger plane crashed on Friday soon after takeoff from
the Caucasus state's capital Baku, officials said.

A reporter of the independent Azeri television channel
Lider told Reuters by telephone from the scene of the crash
that he saw medical teams removing bodies from the wreckage of
the plane near the seashore at Nardaran, on the outskirts of

"Witnesses of the crash told us that before the plane
crashed they saw it making slow circles as if the crew were
trying to direct it away from residential areas," Mekham
Mekhtiyev said.

The Antonov An-140 aircraft, bound for the Kazakh city of
Aktau, disappeared from radar screens soon after take-off from

"The plane has crashed, 23 people on board are dead," the
duty officer at a local police branch, who identified himself
as Kadykov, told Reuters by telephone. "The cause of the crash
is unknown."

Senior officials from police and AZAL were at the scene.

Azerbaijan, situated on the Caspian Sea, is a former Soviet
republic with a thriving oil and gas industry that has
attracted large-scale foreign investment. It was not
immediately known if any foreigners were among the dead.

The An-140 is a relatively new short-range passenger plane
designed in the 1990s. The aircraft, which has two propeller
engines and can carry up to 52 passengers, is produced jointly
by Ukraine and Russia.