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Experts confirm navigator of crashed Tu-134 plane was drunk

September 18, 2011, 23:48 UTC+3

The aircraft had 52 people aboard - 43 passengers and nine crewmembers

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MOSCOW, September 18 (Itar-Tass) — The forensic medical examination has confirmed that the navigator of the Tupolev Tu-134 plane that crashed outside Petrozavodsk in June was drunk, spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin said.

“It is already known from the forensic examination for a fact that the navigator of the aircraft was in a state of intoxication,” Markin said in an interview to the Rossiya-1 TV channel, a fragment of which was shown on Sunday in the News of the Week program.

Earlier, the media cited unnamed sources who said that alcohol traces were allegedly found in the navigator's blood, but this information was not officially confirmed.

The Tu-134 plane of the RusAir airline that was flying from Moscow crashed on the night from June 20 to 21 June near Petrozavodsk airfield.

The aircraft had 52 people aboard - 43 passengers and nine crewmembers. A total of 47 people were killed in the catastrophe and five people were seriously injured.

The aircraft crashed onto the A133 highway while on final approach to Petrozavodsk Airport, about 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) short of the runway. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, though the crash happened about midnight local time in reportedly poor weather, including heavy fog, and the aircraft had apparently attempted to land on the highway before crashing.

According to airport officials, the plane was flying off-course by about 200 metres and started its descent much earlier than appropriate. Petrozavodsk ground control says they recommended that the pilots take a second approach due to low visibility and bad weather conditions. The pilot, according to the official, replied that he would attempt the first approach and said he could land the plane.

Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said earlier in the day that various possible causes for the accident were being studied, including human error. A criminal case into the crash has been launched. The head of the federal air transport agency said the plane had hit a 15-meter-tall pine tree before it crashed, adding that there was no fire or explosion on board the aircraft before the crash.

A law enforcement official in the area said that the aircraft might have suffered mechanical problems while approaching the airport, possibly leading to a decision to land on the highway. According to the office of the emergency ministry in Karelia, the republic in which the incident occurred, radio contact with the plane had been lost at 23:40 local time (19:40 UTC), shortly before the aircraft crashed.

The investigation has determined that among the most likely causes of the accident are human factor (that is error of the pilot or airport’s ground services), bad weather, as well as technical problems of the aircraft or airport equipment.

A criminal case has been opened over the disaster under Article 263 Part 3 of the RF Criminal Code – “violation of safety rules and operation of air transport, resulting in the death of two or more persons.”

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