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YEKATERINBURG, December 26 (Itar-Tass) — Rescuers plan to resume the search for the An-2 plane that went missing in the Sverdlovsk region in early June after taking off from the airfield in the town of Serov, an official told a news conference on Wednesday.
"The worsening weather conditions pose a threat to the health of the people engaged in the search for the crop duster, so a decision was made to withdraw them from the search area. This does not mean we've forgotten the plane. The crews of the planes flying over the possible locations of the missing An-2 are ordered to scan the area. Hunters, fishermen and forest rangers have been advised too. The Ural regional center of the Emergency Situations Ministry is set to resume the search for the crop duster in the most possible locations starting next spring," director of the regional emergency situations department Andrei Zalensky said.
Zalensky said the rescue operation should not be called "unsuccessful or unavailing: "we've gained a tremendous experience while conducting this unprecedented search and rescue operation, which involved all the municipalities, and various kinds of modern equipment. Psychologists of the emergency medicine center have gained a huge professional experience, too, as have the regional police department and social services. The Rosaviatsia agency spent all the money allocated for the search for the plane. Pilots logged many flight hours to improve their skills. Of course, history will show if we moved in the right direction. The information obtained during the search was not useless."
Regional police said in the evening of June 11, a group of persons drank alcohol before boarding the plane in Serov. Several cars were left behind in the airfield. Supposedly, they belonged to passengers. Under one of the versions, the group might have gone fishing or flown to a sauna in a neighboring region. The passengers' mobile phones did not answer.
According to preliminary information, Khatib Kashapov, a native of the town of Orsk, Orenburg region, took off on crop-duster An-2 without permission. It reportedly had up to 13 persons on board and the pilot, including the Serov road police chief, a road policeman, a guard, a pensioner, a businessman, a mobile phone seller and others, regional police chief Valery Gorelykh said.
Criminal proceedings were opened over the disappearance of the An-2 plane under Criminal Code article on "violation of aircraft operation regulations and traffic rules, which resulted in the death of two or more persons by negligence."
The quality of fuel could not have caused the crash, investigators confirmed later.