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An Armenian passenger plane carrying 113 people crashed in stormy weather early Wednesday off Russia's Black Sea coast as it was headed in for landing, killing everyone on board, emergency officials said.
Armenian airline officials said they believed the crash was due to the stormy weather, but Sergei Kubinov, the head of the southern district office of Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, said that the age of the aircraft and technical factors could have been involved. Investigators did not believe terrorism was a factor.
The Airbus A-320, which belonged to the Armenian airline Armavia, disappeared from radar screens just under 6 kilometers from the shore and crashed after making a turn and heading toward the Adler airport near Sochi, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said. Rescue officials in the ministry's southern regional branch said the 113 people aboard the plane, including six children, were killed.
Wreckage from the plane was found not far from the shoreline, Beltsov said, and salvage workers said the fuselage was found at a depth of 450 meters. Search and rescue teams have pulled 18 bodies from the water, Kubinov said; none were wearing life jackets, indicating they did not have sufficient warning to prepare for an emergency landing.
Nineteen boats and divers were involved in the search, and a deep-sea robot was to be used to try to recover the plane's black box, he said. The water temperature was 12 degrees Celsius (53 F).
The plane disappeared from radar screens at about 2:15 a.m. during a flight from Yerevan to Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea in southern Russia, Beltsov said.
He said that the plane went down while trying to make a repeat attempt at an emergency landing. However, the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian air control agency as saying that the plane's crew had not declared any emergency.
Armavia deputy commercial deputy Andrei Agadzhanov said in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, that the crew had communicated with Sochi ground controllers while the plane was flying over the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The ground controllers said there were poor weather conditions but the plane could still land, the representative said.
Just before the landing, however, the ground controllers told the crew to make another circle in the air before approaching the airport. Then the plane crashed.
He said the crew was highly experienced, the airplane was in good condition and that weather conditions were "certainly" the cause.
Rescuers found parts of the plane some 6 kilometers from the shore, emergency officials said. The plane broke up on impact with the water, and wreckage was thrown into a wide arc, Kubinov said.
Rough seas, driving rain and low visibility were hampering the search, Russian news agencies reported.
There was no indication yet of the nationalities of the passengers and crew. Agadzhanov said that the airline's deputy general director, Vyacheslav Yaralov, had been aboard.
Relatives of those aboard the plane were gathering at the Yerevan airport for a charter flight to Sochi later Wednesday morning.
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