Thu, May 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Armenian plane crashes in Black Sea, killing 113

AP , ADLER, RUSSIA

Emergency workers carry a relative of one of those killed in a plane crash after he collapsed at Sochi airport in Russia yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Divers searched storm-churned waters off Russia's Black Sea coast yesterday for the remains of 113 people killed when an Armenian passenger airliner crashed in rough weather as it was heading for landing, emergency officials said.

It was the worst air disaster in Armenia's recent history.

Armenian airline officials said they believed the crash was caused by stormy weather, and Russian Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said weather was considered the likeliest cause. He said that cloud cover was as low as 100m at the time of the crash.

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's office, Natalia Vishnyakova, said there was no indication of terrorism.

The Airbus A-320, which belonged to Armenian airline Armavia, disappeared from radar screens about 6km from shore and crashed after making a turn and heading toward the Adler airport near the Russian resort of Sochi, Beltsov said.

Officials in the emergency ministry's southern regional branch said the 105 passengers and eight crew members aboard the plane flying from the Armenian capital Yerevan, including six children, were all killed.

Gurgen Seroboyan, whose 23-year-old fiancee Lucenie Gevorkian was an attendant on the flight, wept as he waited at Yerevan airport for a charter flight that was to take relatives of the crash victims to Adler.

Samvel Oganesian said his 23-year-old son Vram and his friend Hamlet Abgarian had been heading to Sochi for vacation.

"Why did he go?" Oganesian asked in anguish, over and over again.

About 100 tearful relatives kept up an anguished vigil in a waiting hall of the Adler airport. One man became hysterical and had to be taken away by ambulance.

Sobbing women held handkerchiefs to their mouths, while men sat silently, their heads in their hands.

Aram Sargasian, 22, said he had two uncles on the plane who were coming for a week's vacation.

"I adored them. This is all like a dream," he said, shaking his head.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian President Robert Kocharian declared tomorrow would be a day of mourning in both countries, the Kremlin said.

Wreckage from the plane was found not far from the shoreline, Beltsov said, and Sergei Kudinov, the head of the emergency ministry's southern office, said the fuselage was found at a depth of 400m.

Search and rescue teams had pulled 46 bodies from the water by mid-afternoon, emergency officials said; none was wearing a life jacket, indicating they did not have time to prepare for an emergency landing.

The airline said that 26 Russians, one Ukrainian and one Georgian were among the passengers, while the rest were Armenian citizens.

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