An-28 Carrying 17 Crashes in Estonia

 
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IL Serge Pod #26.11.2001 20:44
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An-28 Carrying 17 Crashes in Estonia

A chartered Elk Airways airliner with 17 people on board plunged into a forested marsh on a Baltic Sea island with virtually no warning, killing one and injuring several others.

The accident on Friday evening — the first major plane crash in Estonia since it regained independence from the Soviet Union 10 years ago — occurred just two kilometers before the An-28`s designated airport runway on Hiiumaa island.

Passenger John Pass, a 38-year-old Canadian of Estonian decent who grew up in Sydney, Nova Scotia, said Saturday that the Russian-built aircraft appeared to be descending normally after a 30-minute flight from Tallinn.

But from his seat at the back of the plane, he saw the two pilots at the controls in the cockpit suddenly start frantically flipping control switches and the plane drifted sideways. Within seconds it plowed into the ground.

``I`ve flown on this plane many times and the approach to the airport could always be shaky,`` he said by telephone from a house he owns on Hiiumaa, some 130 kilometers southwest of Tallinn.

``It was only when I saw the pilots doing this that I realized something wasn't right and put my head down. There'd been no warning over the intercom from the captain,`` said Pass, who was treated for what appeared to be a pulled muscle but was otherwise unhurt.

Water poured in from the marsh after the plane carrying three crew and 14 passengers crashed.

Several children at the front of the plane, the most heavily damaged section, were screaming and crying as the plane slid to a stop, Pass said. Pictures in local newspapers Saturday showed a big hole in the front of the plane, the wings snapped off and other twisted metal wreckage.

It was snowing at the time of the accident and temperatures were at or just above freezing, said police spokesman Indrek Raudjalg. Investigators have visited the scene but haven't yet determined the cause of the accident.

A man who lived on Hiiumaa island was killed, while one of the pilots was in a coma and four passengers were in serious condition, Raudjalg said.

Most of the passengers were Estonian, besides Pass and a Norwegian woman identified by the Baltic News Service as Anna Helena Gjelstad, who was not badly injured.

Investigators said Saturday that they had recovered the flight recorders and hoped to begin deciphering their contents soon.

``The deciphering time depends on how soon deciphering equipment is found, but this will take at least a week,`` said Tonu Ader, an investigator with the state aviation board.

On Friday, BNS quoted an official with Elk Airways as saying ice on the wings and steering system may have played a role in the crash.

Elk, which other than Estonia Air is the only airline to operate regular flights between Tallinn and Moscow, had leased the plane and its crew from another Estonian firm, Enimex.

Enimex said Saturday that British aviation specialists had done a check of the company`s planes and crews earlier this year and approved them.

``The planes are serviced according to new European technical standards established last year,`` Enimex said in a statement. ``Planes, pilots and personnel have all necessary international certificates.``

/AP, Reuters/

AVIA.RU - Информационное агентство "Российская авиация и космонавтика"
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