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Thu, Mar 17, 2005

All Russian Crash Survivors Expected To Pull Through

Aircraft Wing Reportedly Scraped Ground, Causing Accident

Russian officials still don't know what caused a Regional Airlines Antonov AN-24 to go down on the Arctic Coast Wednesday, but they're getting an earful from witnesses. Of the 52 people on board the aircraft, 24 survived and Russian authorities now say the survivors will probably all pull through.

The story has been an evolving one. The aircraft, on approach to the airport in Varandei, in the autonomous region of Nenets, suddenly rolled violently; one wing scraped the ground and the aircraft nosed in, burning after impact.

Now comes word that the crew members are among those who survived. "The tragedy was caused by the plane's roll during approach to landing -- the plane grazed the ground with its wing, crashed, broke apart and burst in flames," local prosecutor Andrei Mukhin said, according to Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency.

The pilot had reported that he saw the runway, although witnesses said the 23-year old AN-24's (file photo of type, below) tail was falling apart in flight. Still, at this point, Russian officials are unwilling to venture any guesses as to the cause of the mishap.

It was Russia's worst aviation disaster since two commercial aircraft were downed by in-flight bombs at roughly the same time last August. Ninety people died in those downings.

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