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MOSCOW, December 27. /TASS/. New eye witnesses of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Tu-154 plane crash have been found and questioned, Investigative Committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko told TASS.
"New eye witnesses of the crash have been found and questioned, one of the witnesses made a video of the plane taking off and crashing into the sea," she said. "Apart from this video, the video of the Tu-154 plane landing at the Sochi airport as well as videos showing the plane taxing toward the parking stand and its passengers going through passport control, were also retrieved by investigators."
Over 90 people have been recognized as aggrieved parties in the crash case. "The lists have been forwarded to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the Federal Labor and Employment Agency so that insurance payments could be made," the spokesperson added.
According to her, in the past 24 hours, the seabed at the crash site was examined using submersibles. A boat crane was used to retrieve fragments of the fuselage and one of the engines as well as one of the flight data recorders which has been delivered to Moscow for deciphering. Thousands of the recovered fragments of the victims’ clothes and belongings have been examined.
Besides that, in Petrenko’s words, "the area stretching from the Sochi International Airport to the coastline has been scoured, police have been knocking on doors in the area trying to find eye witnesses."
Fuel samples have been sent for investigation, a number of other tests are underway in order to establish all circumstances surrounding this tragic accident, Petrenko said. The victims’ bodies have been delivered to Moscow for identification, she added.
A Tu-154 plane from Russia’s Defense Ministry crashed in the early morning hours of December 25 shortly after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi. There were 92 people on board the aircraft, including eight crew members and 84 passengers that lost their lives in the plane disaster.
Among those on the fatal flight was the Executive Director of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) charity fund, Elizaveta Glinka, better known to the Russian public as Dr. Liza, as well as military servicemen and nine reporters from Russia's Channel One, Zvezda and NTV networks. The plane was also carrying nearly three dozen members of the world-renowned Alexandrov Ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian Armed Forces. The ensemble was on its way to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Russia’s Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim air base in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that fragments from the Tu-154 disaster had been discovered some 1.5 kilometers off the coast of Sochi at depths of 50-70 meters.
Russia’s Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case into the crash under Article 351 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (violation of flight security rules).
Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said that terrorism was not considered to be a cause of the crash. The Federal Security Service said that investigators were considering a pilot error, a technical fault, bad fuel and a foreign object in the engine as four main possible causes of the crash.