Plane Crashes in Russia With 113 Aboard
By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer

Associated Press
May 2, 2006

MOSCOW - An Armenian passenger plane crashed in stormy weather early
Wednesday off Russia's Black Sea coast as it was headed in for a
landing, killing all 113 people on board, emergency officials said.

The Airbus A-320, which belonged to the Armenian airline Armavia,
disappeared from radar screens about four miles from the shore and
crashed after making a turn toward the Adler airport near the southern
Russian city of Sochi, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor
Beltsov said. Rescue officials in the ministry's southern regional
branch said all 113 people aboard the plane, including six children,
were killed.

Armavia officials said they believed the crash was due to the weather,
but Sergei Kubinov, regional head of the Emergency Situations Ministry,
said the age of the aircraft and technical problems could have been
involved.

Investigators did not believe terrorism was a factor.

Relatives of those aboard the plane were gathering at the Yerevan,
Armenia, airport for a charter flight to Sochi later Wednesday morning.

The plane broke up on impact with the water, and wreckage was thrown
into a wide arc, Kubinov said. Salvage workers said the fuselage was
recovered at a depth of nearly 1,500 feet.

Search and rescue teams had pulled 18 bodies from the water,
Kubinov said.

None were wearing life jackets, indicating they did not have sufficient
warning to prepare for an emergency landing.

Rough seas, driving rain and low visibility were hampering the search,
Russian news agencies reported. A deep-sea robot was to be used to
try to recover the plane's black box.

The plane disappeared from radar at about 2:15 a.m. local time during
a flight from Yerevan to Sochi, Beltsov said. He said the plane went
down while trying to make a repeat attempt at an emergency landing;
the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian air control agency as
saying that the plane's crew had not reported an emergency.

Andrei Agadzhanov, Armavia's deputy commercial director, said the
crew had communicated with Sochi ground controllers while the plane
was flying over the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The ground controllers
reported stormy weather but told the crew the plane could still land,
he said.

Just before the landing, however, the ground controllers told the
plane's pilots to circle again before approaching the airport. Then
the plane crashed.

Agadzhanov said that the airline's deputy general director, Vyacheslav
Yaralov, had been aboard. He said the crew was experienced and that
the bad weather was "certainly" the cause.

___

AP reporters Avet Demourian in Yerevan and Sergei Venyavsky in
Rostov-on-Don, Russia contributed to this story.