UPDATE: 6:29 a.m. EST – The vessel scanning the Black Sea to locate debris of the crashed Russian Tu-154 plane detected an object on the sea floor, sources told Interfax Monday, adding that divers were heading to the object.
Earlier, the Russian Aerospace Forces commander-in-chief said that the flight recorders of the Tu-154 plane were placed in the fin of the jet and have suffered the least damage.
A massive search operation for the bodies of the victims is underway.
Russian Defense Ministry said that 45 vessels, five helicopters and drones are working in the Tu-154 crash area. Eleven bodies of the victims and 154 plane fragments have been retrieved in the first 24 hours of the search operation.
UPDATE: 1:08 a.m. EST – The Russian Tu-154 plane crash was likely because of pilot error or technical fault, the country’s transport minister Maxim Sokolov said early Monday, ruling out terrorism as a cause. His comments were in complete contrast to earlier reports that the jet was technically sound before takeoff.
The plane, which was carrying 92 people, went down Sunday in the Black Sea while traveling from Sochi to Latakia province in western Syria.
The first bodies of the victims of the plane crash arrived in Moscow on Monday while a massive search operation for other victims continues.
Sokolov also reportedly said that the Black Sea current may have swept parts of plane fragments to Abkhazia. “It is assumed that some fragments, remains could cross the border. Therefore our Abkhaz colleagues are ready to include their forces and means in search and rescue operations,” Sokolov said.
The Russian Tu-154 plane, which crashed Sunday in the Black Sea killing all 92 people, was “technically sound” before the takeoff from Sochi, an official reportedly said.
A massive search operation is underway in Russia to find the bodies of those on board the jet.
“The plane was technically sound. The latest maintenance works were conducted in September 2016,” Sergei Bainetov, the chief of the Russian armed forces’ flight safety service said, adding that the pilot, Roman Volkov, had flown the route more than once.
The plane — which was carrying soldiers, members of a famed army music ensemble and journalists — was traveling to Latakia province in western Syria. Monday has been declared a day of national mourning across Russia.
According to local media, an audio recording said to be of the final conversation between air traffic controllers and the plane’s crew did not reveal any sign of difficulties faced during the flight.
More than 3,000 people, including 109 divers, as well as ships, planes, helicopters and submersibles are currently searching for the bodies of the victims near Sochi. So far, 11 bodies of the crash victims have been recovered while Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said fragments of other bodies were also found.
“As darkness fell, the operation in the crash area is continuing non-stop,” defence ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, at a briefing late Sunday, according to BBC. He also added that powerful spotlights were being used by the search teams to locate plane debris.
Earlier on Sunday, the defence ministry said: “Fragments of the Tu-154 plane of the Russian defence ministry were found 1.5 kilometers (one mile) from the Black Sea coast of the city of Sochi at a depth of 50m to 70m (165-230ft).”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the setting up of a government commission to look into the Tu-154 plane crash.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons and will do everything to support the victims’ families,” Putin said Sunday.