On July 6, an Antonov An-26 passenger jet crashed in Russia’s Kamchatka territory. The plane’s communications cut out and it disappeared from radar while flying from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the town of Palana. The plane left Elizovo Airport at 12:57 p.m., local time (8:57 p.m., the previous day, EDT), and should have landed in Palana, roughly two hours later. Flight control officials lost contact with the plane about 10 minutes before it was expected to land. The company that owns the plane says it disappeared about nine kilometers (about six miles) shy of Palana. The owners also say the aircraft, built in 1982, was in good condition.
There were 28 people aboard the plane: six crew members and 22 passengers, including two minors (one of whom was born in 2014). Most of the passengers were Palana locals, including Olga Mokhireva, the head of the town, and several other senior officials and some family members. Before the plane took off in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a passenger named Ivan Sivak published a selfie on Instagram from inside the cabin. In comments, others have since written that they are praying for everyone on the flight.
There were no survivors. Local air medical service workers told the news agency Interfax that preliminary reports indicate that all 28 people aboard the plane died in the crash. A source in Russia’s emergency response agency who spoke to TASS also confirmed this information.
The missing plane’s wreckage was discovered near a cliff outside the town of Palana and in the sea. Debris was scattered 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) from the town, according to emergency workers. A military aircraft from Russia’s Pacific Fleet identified one part of the plane’s fuselage on the slope of the Pyatibratka Hill and a second part at sea, four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the coast.
An unnamed source told Interfax that the plane apparently collided with a rock during its landing approach in poor visibility conditions. Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov has speculated that the plane may have crashed while making a second landing attempt.
Journalists at the news outlet Baza have reported that rescue workers used weather conditions and the time when the plane stopped communicating to determine the crash location. A weak radio signal was simultaneously recorded off Kamchatka’s coast — presumably the radio beacon of the plane’s flight recorder, which activates in the event of a catastrophe.
Alexey Khrabrov, the CEO of “Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise,” which owns the crashed plane, told TASS that the flight crew was “talented, young, and experienced.” The flight captain was 35 years old, he said. Spokespeople for Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency say the local landscape has made rescue work “difficult.”
Following the crash, federal investigators have launched a criminal case, alleging violations of air traffic safety and transport. Anyone convicted in this case could face up to seven years in prison. The region’s transport attorney general’s office is also conducting an inspection.
This isn’t the first plane crash outside Palana — another aircraft went down in the exact same spot. In 2012, an Antonov An-28 jet also owned by the Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise crashed into a 1,600-foot hill in the Pyatibratka Mountain region, killing 10 people and seriously injuring another four. The Interstate Aviation Committee attributed the incident to pilot error: the men in the cockpit were drunk.