A Russian plane carrying 92 people to an air base in Syria crashed Sunday into the Black Sea minutes after taking off from the city of Sochi, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. Thousands of rescue workers were searching the undersea crash site but there appeared to be no survivors. Those on board included dozens of members of Russia’s world-famous army choir.
The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known. At least one expert cited a terror attack as a possible reason — a scenario rejected by Russian officials.
In all, 84 passengers and eight crew members were on the Tu-154 plane when it disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off in good weather. Emergency crews found fragments of the plane about 1.5 kilometers (less than one mile) from shore and by Sunday afternoon, rescue teams had already recovered 10 bodies.
The plane belonged to the Defense Ministry and was taking the Alexandrov Ensemble to a New Year’s concert at Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia. Those on board also included nine Russian journalists and a Russian doctor famous for her work in war zones. New Year’s is the main holiday for most Russians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television to declare Monday a nationwide day of mourning.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons and will do everything to support the victims’ families,” Putin said.