An Ilyushin Il-76 military cargo aircraft has delivered to Moscow ten bodies and 86 fragments of bodies of the Tu-154 crash victims, the press service of Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Monday.
“At 8:05 Moscow time (5:05 am GMT) a Defense Ministry’s Ilyushin Il-76 military cargo aircraft delivered to Moscow ten bodies and 86 fragments of bodies recovered at the crash site,” the press service said.
A Russian Defense Ministry Tu-154 bound for Syria vanished from radars at 05.40 a.m. Moscow time (02.40 a.m. GMT) shortly after taking off from Sochi. There were 92 people on board the aircraft, including eight crew members and 84 passengers. Among them were journalists, servicemen and musicians from the world-renowned Alexandrov ensemble, the official choir of the Russian armed forces, who set off to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria. The Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Russian for Fair Aid or Fair Help) charity fund Elizaveta Glinka, known to the Russian public as Dr. Liza, was also on board the flight.
The Defense Ministry said that debris from the Tu-154 aircraft was found 1.5 km off the coast of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters. Thanks to intensive efforts by search and rescue teams, 11 bodies have been recovered so far. The first plane carrying the remains of the crash victims has already arrived in Moscow. December 26 has been declared a day of national mourning in Russia.
The task force deployed to the crash site has been beefed up to 3,500 people, and the search operation area has been expanded. A total of 39 vessels, 135 divers and seven mini-submarines are involved in the operation.
According to Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov, who heads the government commission on the investigation of the crash, a terrorist attack is not viewed as the main version of the accident. A technical fault or a pilot error could have caused the crash.