Pilot and passengers say lightning caused deadly Russian crash landing
Investigators were on Monday working to understand the causes of the blaze after the Sukhoi Superjet-100 had to return to Sheremetyevo airport shortly after take-off Sunday evening.
But pilot Denis Yevdokimov told Russian media the craft lost communication and needed to switch to emergency control mode "because of lightning" on the Aeroflot flight to the Arctic city of Murmansk.
He did not specify if the plane was struck directly.
"We managed to restore communication through the emergency frequency on our radio connection. But the link was only for a short time and kept cutting out... it was possible to say only a few words," he told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
There were 78 people on board the plan, according to the Investigative Committee.
Another 11 people were injured, said Dmitry Matveyev, the Moscow region's health minister. Three of them had been hospitalised but they were not in a serious condition, he added.
Several of the 78 people on board said they believed lightning was the cause of the tragedy, which came at the end of several days of public holidays following Workers' Day on May 1.
"I saw a flash of white light," Dmitry Khlebushkin told the state RIA news agency.
Pyotr Egorov, also on board, told media: "We had just taken off when the plane was hit by lightning... the landing was very hard, we almost passed out from fear.
"The plane bounced on the tarmac like a grasshopper and burst into flames on the ground."
The tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted one passenger, Petr Egorov, who said: "We had just taken off and the aircraft was hit by lightning ... The landing was rough, I almost passed out from fear."
"The plane sent out a distress signal after takeoff," a source told Interfax news agency.
"It attempted an emergency landing but did not succeed the first time, and on the second time the landing gear hit [the ground], then the nose did, and it caught fire," the source added. ■