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Rescuers say 12 passengers were onboard An-2 plane lost in Sverdlovsk region

June 19, 2012, 15:24 UTC+3

Earlier reports said there were eight people onboard the plane

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YEKATERINBURG, June 19 (Itar-Tass) — There were 13 people, a pilot and 12 passenger, were onboard the ill-fortune An-2 airplane that has been missing in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region for over a week, Andrei Zalensky, the head of the regional emergencies administration said on Tuesday, citing verified data.

Earlier reports said there were eight people onboard the plane.

According to Zalensky, unfavorable weather has complicated the search operation. Because of the stormy weather, it is next to impossible to carry out the search operation in the far-to-reach mountainous areas, he said. Moreover, there is practically no information where the plane was heading when it was lost.

In the meantime, Sverdlovsk region governor Yevgeny Kuvaishev promised to engage rescuers from the neighboring regions, the republic of Komi, the Perm Territory, the Khanty-Mansi autonomous area and the Tomsk region, in the search for the lost plane.

It is also planned to involve military aircrafts. The governor is to file a request to this effect to the defence ministry, Zalensky said.

According to Zalensky, it was also decided to engage more Mi-8 helicopters. It was also decided to re-comb areas checked by volunteers and police.

Earlier in the day, rescuers sent a landing party to a hard-to-reach area, where the plane might have made an emergency landing.

Because of the specifics of the territory covered with forests, the use of drones has proved to be inefficient.

“The overall search area is about 160,000 square kilometers. As of now, more than 50,000 square kilometers have been combed. Rescuers have checked about 2,000 settlements, 178 hunting and 145 forestry farms, 295 fishing places, about 15,000 people have been interrogated. The search operation involves three helicopters and two airplanes,” Zalesky said.

According to preliminary data, in the evening on June 11, the plane’s pilot Khatib Kashapov, a native of the town of Orsk, Orenburg region, took off on crop-duster An-2 without permission. The plane belongs to Avi Zov, a company based in Chelyabinsk. There were twelve passengers onboard. Among the plane’s passengers presumably are the chief of Serov’s traffic police, a traffic police officer, an officer of a private bodyguard company, a businessman, a salesman from a telecom shop, and others.

A criminal case was opened on charges of violations of air traffic safety and aircraft operation rules that resulted in the death through negligence of one or more people.

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