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15 Sep, 2008 19:36

Monument to be erected to Perm plane crash victims

Authorities have begun to pay out compensation to relatives of the Perm plane crash victims and promise to erect a monument in their memory. Eighty-two passengers and six crew members were killed when a Boeing 737 went d

Monday was declared a day of mourning in the region, as messages of condolence poured into Russia from across the world.

In Perm, relatives and ordinary citizens join in memorial services for those who died on Flight 821 from Moscow.

Emergency workers say there are no survivors. Seven children, including a baby, are reported to have been on the flight, which was operated by an Aeroflot subsidiary, Aeroflot Nord.

Most passengers were Russians from Perm. The jet was also carrying 21 foreigners: 9 from Azerbaijan, 5 from Ukraine, and one each from France, Switzerland, Latvia, Italy, Germany, Turkey and the United States.

3 passengers who had bought tickets for the flight did not board the aircraft. Their connection from Barcelona was delayed, and they were forced to travel to Perm by train – this saved their lives.

Two emergency centres have been opened for victims’ relatives: one at the airport in Perm, and the other at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo-1 airport.

Relatives were flown from Moscow to Perm on Sunday evening to face the task of identifying bodies.

They are also giving blood for DNA testing – the only way to help identify the remains of their loved ones.

Information Hotlines are available in Perm: +7 3422 294 98 91, +7 3422 294 99 28 and +7 342 263 11 36.  Trauma support lines for relatives of victims are also available: +7 3422 245 24 24 and +7 495 626 3707.

The Public Health Ministry says the relatives definitely need psychological and psychotherapeutic help.

“We have everything ready and we will provide help to those people as long as they need help to deal with their grief,” Zurab Kekilidze said.

The Boeing 737 fell in wasteland near a residential area. It is reported to have exploded before hitting the ground, with debris scattering over a vast area.

The two flight recorders have been recovered and investigators say they are looking at ten possible causes of the crash. Preliminary reports say it is likely that engine failure caused the plane to lose altitude, crash and explode.

Russia's transport minister, Igor Levitin, has ruled out a terrorist attack.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing an explosion and seeing clouds of black smoke coming from the plane. To hear what witnesses of the crash had to say, please click here.

Emergency services say no people were killed or injured on the ground. Parts of the wreckage which had caught fire have been extinguished.

Aeroflot Nord is a subsidiary of Aeroflot airlines – the largest air carrier in Russia. Aeroflot has the lowest accident rate in the country. Its last passenger plane crash was in 1994.

Based at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, the airline operates domestic and international passenger services to 96 cities in 49 countries.

Aeroflot cuts off co-operation with subsidiary

Aeroflot, Russia's largest air carrier, boasting the lowest accident rate in the country, has already distanced itself from its subsidiary.

“We decided to cut off our co-operation with Aeroflot Nord. We have paid too big a price for providing our logo to the company,” said Aeroflot chairman and CEO Valery Okulov.

'Pilot was behaving unusually'

The last person to speak to the pilot of the plane was the air traffic controller at Perm airport, Irak Bikbov.

Speaking to local media, he gave this account of the last minutes of Flight 821:

“The pilot was behaving in an unusual manner. He wasn't following my instructions. Something was happening but he didn't want to say anything or was hiding something. He contacted us and I told him that it was time to begin the landing. However, the instruments indicated the plane began to gain height. It climbed from 600 metres to 900 metres. I told him to confirm his height, which he did but added that the plane continued to descend. In reality however, the plane went up to 1,200 metres so it was too close to the runway and too high for the plane to land. I instructed the pilot to make a second attempt. The crew confirmed they received the instructions, but did not follow them. I told them to turn right, but the pilot turned left. When they were around 600 metres, the pilot cried out and then I saw a crash somewhere over the city. I understood that they had fallen.”

Plane had had no previous accidents

The plane which crashed in Perm was 16 years old. The Boeing 737-500 jet was leased to Aeroflot Nord by an Irish company and was previously operated by a Chinese air carrier without incident. For more on the history of the jet, click here.

Both of the plane's 'black box' flight recorders have been recovered and their contents are being examined in Moscow. It is expected the decoding will take several weeks.

Boeing has promised to provide technical assistance to the crash investigation.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and other heads of state have expressed their condolences to the victims' families.