25 BODIES RECOVERED FROM BLACK SEA AIR CRASH SITE

RIA Novost
09:55 | 03/ 05/ 2006

MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - A total of 25 bodies have been recovered
from the site of an air crash near Russia's Black Sea coast, emergency
services said Wednesday.

More than 100 people are feared dead after an Airbus liner flying
from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, to the resort town of Sochi
crashed in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Airline Armavia said
113 people were on board.

The Airbus sunk 400 meters into the sea and 23 vessels, including
13 Russian Emergency Situations Ministry vessels, are working at
the scene.

Viktor Beltsov, an official with the ministry, said the cause of the
crash would only become known after the A-320's flight recorders were
recovered and the data deciphered.

"The flight data recorders have not been discovered so far," he said.

Beltsov said the nationality of the passengers who were on board the
airliner was being identified at the moment. He added, citing the
flight plan, that most of them were Armenian citizens.

Earlier reports suggested at least 23 Russians had died, but Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said there were at least
26 Russians on board.

Beltsov said the airliner had disappeared from radars at 2:15
a.m. Moscow time (10:15 p.m. GMT) and rescuers spotted it at 04:05
a.m. Moscow time (12:05 GMT). The airliner is thought to have crashed
when it was making another attempt to land.

Russian investigators are studying all versions and have refused to
rule out any possibility.

"The aircraft fell into the sea from an altitude between 30 and 40
meters," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors in the southern Russian region of Krasnodar said
the airliner was making its approach to land, but the air traffic
controller suggested it return to Yerevan due to stormy weather. Later,
however, two runways were made available to the aircraft with
visibility of 100 and 360 meters.

"Visibility was poor, but it was possible to land in such visibility,"
a representative of the local prosecutor's office said.

Another 22 Emergency Situations Ministry rescuers, including seven
divers, have arrived in the region.