WATCH: The scene of the TU-134 crash near Petrozavodsk airport in northwestern Russia on June 21. (Reuters video)
Forty-four people have been killed in a passenger-plane crash in thick fog in northwestern Russia, with eight survivors hospitalized, some of them with critical injuries.
Local media report the RusAir aircraft broke up and burst into flames after coming down on a highway near the airport in Petrozavodsk, its planned final destination in Karelia, which borders Finland.
Investigators said it was too early to establish the precise cause of the crash.
But Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, speaking from Paris, said it was “clear” the accident was the result of a pilot error. Ivanov oversees Russia’s aviation industry.
Elissan Shendelovich, the doctor in charge at Karelia Republic hospital, told Reuters that six people had been admitted there, four of them in “grave condition.”
The survivors reportedly include a mother and her 9- and 14-year-old sons, who were hospitalized in critical condition in Petrozavodsk.
According to Interfax, bodies littered the highway.
At least one foreigner, a Swedish man, was among the dead.
The plane, a Russian-made Tu-134 jet, was traveling from Moscow and crashed shortly before midnight.
The plane reportedly came very close to hitting nearby houses, and some reports suggested it struck a vehicle when it hit the road.
It was immediately unclear how many people were in the car or if they were among the injured.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently criticized the problems in domestically made planes and the nation’s poor safety record.
compiled from agency reports