- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian passenger plane carrying at least 201 persons skidded off a rain-slicked runway in the Siberian city of Irkutsk yesterday and plowed through a concrete barrier, bursting into flames. At least 122 persons were killed, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Fifty-eight persons were injured in the accident, the second major commercial airline crash in two months in Russia.

The commission investigating the crash said preliminary information indicated that the braking system on the Airbus A-310 operated by S7 Airlines had failed, Russian news agencies reported, citing unidentified officials.

The plane was carrying 193 passengers and eight crew members on a flight from Moscow. At least 14 passengers were younger than 12, airline spokesman Konstantin Koshman said.

Many of the children were headed to nearby Lake Baikal on vacation, according to Russian news reports.

Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Natalia Lukash said three persons whose names were not on the passenger list were pulled unconscious from the wreckage. It was not clear whether they had been on the ground at the time of the crash or were flying as unregistered passengers.

Some of the survivors owed their lives to a flight attendant who opened an escape hatch, the ministry said.

The plane veered off the runway on landing and tore through a 6-foot-high concrete barrier. It then crashed into a compound of one-story garages, stopping a short distance from some small houses.

A witness said he heard a bang and the ground trembled.

“I saw smoke coming from the aircraft. People were already walking out who were charred, injured, burnt,” Mikhail Yegeryov told NTV television.

“I asked a person who was in the Airbus what happened, and he said the plane had landed on the [runway] but didn’t brake,” he said. “The cabin then burst into flames.”

The aircraft’s two flight recorders, or “black boxes,” were recovered and were being deciphered.

S7, formerly known as Sibir, is Russia’s second-largest airline, having been carved out of Aeroflot’s Siberian wing after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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