A plane with 98 people on board crashed shortly after takeoff in Kazakhstan early Friday, killing at least 12 and sending 54 to hospitals, authorities said. Ten of them were in critical condition.
The cause of the crash was unclear, but authorities were looking at two possible scenarios — pilot error and technical failure, Kazakhstan’s deputy prime minister Roman Sklyar said. Here is the latest update on the crash…
The Bek Air aircraft hit a concrete fence and a two-story building after taking off from Almaty International Airport, which said the plane lost attitude and “fell off the radar” before dawn, shortly after 7:00 a.m. Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the airport said there was no fire and a rescue operation got underway immediately following the crash.
Around 1,000 people were working at the snow-covered site of the crash in Almerek village, just beyond the end of the runway. Local people on the ground said the area was blanketed with thick fog soon after the crash.
A video released by the Kazakh emergencies committee showed the front of the plane smashed into a partially collapsed house as rescuers tried to pull people from the wreckage. They were “reaching into the windows of the shattered cockpit”. Dozens of people lined up in Almaty in front of a local blood bank to donate blood for the injured. The footage showed the rear of the plane lying in the field next to the airport. The plane was flying to Nur-Sultan, the country’s capital, formerly known as Astana.
Sources say passengers told them they heard a terrifying sound before the plane started losing altitude, the plane was reported as with the wings tilted over to one side. “Everything was like in a movie: screaming, shouting, people crying”. Passengers from the stricken plane used their mobile phones to try and call emergency services and post videos.
It took 20 minutes for a car with ‘Security’ written on the side to arrive.
One passenger was reported as saying: “Only this car just arrived. And some security car takes the (injured) kids away. “No more help. No ambulances. No paramedics.”
There were complaints at the time it took for ambulances to reach the scene.
AFP said Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pledged to provide families of the victims with compensation and tweeted that those responsible “will be severely punished in accordance with the law.”
He also said that a government commission had been set up to seek the cause of the crash. The U.S. mission in Kazakhstan tweeted its condolences and said it “is closely monitoring the situation and, if necessary, is ready to provide Consular Support.”
Kazakhstan’s air safety record is far from spotless:
The aircraft was identified as a Fokker-100, a medium-sized, twin-turbofan jet airliner. It was reported to be 23 years old and was most recently certified to operate in May. The company manufacturing the aircraft went bankrupt in 1996 and the production of the Fokker-100 stopped the following year. All Bek Air and Fokker-100 flights in Kazakhstan have been suspended pending the investigation of the crash, the country’s authorities said.
In 2009, all Kazakh airlines – with the exception of the flagship carrier Air Astana – were banned from operating in the European Union because they didn’t meet international safety standards. The ban was lifted only in 2016.