Divers have found parts of the debris from a TU-154 airplane in the Black sea near Sochi. 92 people are believed to have been killed when the military plane crashed minutes after takeoff.
Russian news agencies reported on Monday that specialized divers had found large fragments of a military plane that crashed in the Black Sea the day before, killing all 92 people aboard. Moscow announced an official day of mourning in remembrance of the victims.
"The (plane) debris is at the depth of 27 meters (89 feet), one mile from the shore," said Rimma Chernova, a spokeswoman for the Sochi-based search and rescue operations run by the Russian emergency ministry.
The TU-154 aircraft bound for Syria fell out of the sky just minutes after takeoff in Sochi. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said the government was investigating whether a pilot error or technical fault caused the crash.
The crash was not being considered an act of terrorism on Monday, despite some speculating that the pattern of debris indicated the plane may have been targeted by an attack.
"Possible malfunctions ... certainly wouldn't have prevented the crew from reporting them," Vitaly Andreyev, a former senior Russian air traffic controller, told RIA Novosti, adding that it pointed to an "external impact."
Intelligence agency FSB said however that it has "has not found any signs or facts pointing to a possible terror attack or sabotage on board," but that it is possible external objects may have gotten into the engine.
Some 3,000 recovery workers and 100 divers had been scouring the waters since the plane went down to look for the wreckage, assisted by drones and submersibles. At least 11 bodies were recovered from the Black Sea overnight.
Amongst the dead were journalists and musicians from the Alexandrov Ensemble, or Red Army Choir, which had been set to perform a New Year's concert for Russian troops in Syria, where Moscow has been a key ally for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad personally expressed his condolences for the crash. "Our prayers are with you…our sorrows and joys are one," he said.
Sunday's incident was the latest in a series of fatal accidents involving the TU-154. Over 800 people have been killed in crashes involving the airliner since 2000, and Russia's flag carrier Aeroflot has retired the use of them completely.
In April 2010, a TU-154 belonging to the Polish air force crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk, killing Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, alongside 94 others.
es/rc (AP, AFP)