At least 40 dead in Russian plane's fiery emergency landing

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MOSCOW (AP) - A Russian airliner burst into flames while making an emergency landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport Sunday evening, and at least 40 people died, officials said.

The Sukhoi SSJ100 operated by national airline Aeroflot had 73 passengers and five crew members on board when it touched down and sped down a runway spewing huge flames and black smoke.

Elena Markovskaya, a spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee, said early Monday that 41 people were killed. But Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said later that 38 survived, implying the death toll was 40.

The victims included one member of the crew and at least two teenagers, according to the Investigative Committee.

Video showed desperate passengers leaping out of the plane onto inflatable evacuation slides and staggering across the airport's tarmac and grass, some holding luggage.

The airport said in a statement that the plane, which had taken off from Sheremetyevo Airport for the northern city of Murmansk, turned back for unspecified technical reasons and made a hard landing that started the fire.

Video broadcast later on Russian television showed flames bursting from the jetliner's underside as it lands and then bounces. The plane apparently did not have time to jettison fuel before the emergency landing, news reports said.

The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia's troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.

However, the plane's reputation was troubled after defects were found in some horizontal stabilizers.

The plane's manufacturer, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, said the plane in Sunday's accident had received maintenance at the beginning of April. Aeroflot said the pilot had some 1,400 hours of experience flying the plane.

The plane is largely used in Russia as a replacement for outdated Soviet-era aircraft, but also has been used by airlines in other countries, including Armenia and Mexico.

This is the second fatal accident involving a SSJ100. In 2012, a demonstration flight in Indonesia struck a mountain, killing all 45 aboard.

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