A Dubai airliner with 62 people on board nosedived and exploded in a giant fireball early Saturday while trying to land in strong winds in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, killing all aboard, officials said.
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said the Boeing 737-800 operated by FlyDubai was carrying 55 passengers, most of them Russians, and seven crew members of various nationalities.
FlyDubai confirmed that there were no survivors and said four children were among those killed.
MSN reported the powerful explosion pulverized the plane but investigators quickly recovered both flight recorders.
The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known, but officials and experts pointed at a sudden gust of wind as a possible reason.
“Our primary concern is for the families of the passengers and crew who were on board. Everyone at FlyDubai is in deep shock and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those involved,”
said CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith.
He said that pilots, who were from Cyprus and Spain, hadn’t issued any distress signal before the crash.
They had 5,965 and 5,769 hours of flying time respectively, making them “quite experienced,” al-Ghaith added.
The cabin crew included two Russians and citizens of Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan.
Al-Ghaith said the plane was produced in 2011 and underwent a detailed maintenance inspection known as a C check in January.
Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region some 950 kilometers (600 miles) south of Moscow, was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling local journalists that the plane crashed about 250 meters (800 feet) short of the runway.
“By all appearances, the cause of the air crash was the strongly gusting wind, approaching a hurricane level,” he said.
According to the weather data reported by Russian state television, winds at ground level weren’t dangerously strong at the moment of the crash, but at an altitude of 500 meters (1,640 feet) and higher they reached a near-hurricane speed of around 30 meters per second (67 miles per hour).
Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, told The Associated Press that the plane missed its approach then entered a holding pattern.