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Parts of crashed Russian plane found in Black Sea

The 84 passengers included dozens of singers in Russia’s world-famous military choir.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 18:20

RUSSIAN RESCUERS FOUND the first parts of the Syria-bound military plane that plunged into the Black Sea, as officials dismissed terrorism as a possible cause of the crash that killed all 92 people on board.

The Tu-154 jet, whose passengers included more than 60 members of the internationally-renowned Red Army Choir, was heading to Russia’s military base in Syria when it went down off the coast of the resort city of Sochi shortly after take-off on Sunday.

Investigators have yet to confirm the cause of the crash, but officials said that an act of terror was not being considered as a possible explanation, despite the plane and its black boxes still being underwater.

A spokeswoman for the Sochi-based search and rescue branch of the emergency ministry confirmed that parts of the plane had been found underwater.

“The debris is at the depth of 27 metres one mile from shore,” spokeswoman Rimma Chernova told AFP.

The Russian military added that divers had retrieved “two elements of the plane’s control mechanism.”

Divers brought in

Authorities have said that the search operation would continue overnight.

A pilot error or a technical fault is likely to be the cause of yesterday’s plane crash over the Black Sea, the Russian transport minister said today.

All 84 passengers and eight crew members on the Russian military’s Tu-154 plane are believed to have died when it crashed two minutes after taking off from Russia’s Sochi.

The passengers included dozens of singers in Russia’s world-famous military choir.

More than 3,000 rescue workers on 32 ships, including over 100 divers flown in from across Russia, are searching the crash site at sea and along the shore, the Russian defence ministry said.

Russia Military Plane Russian rescue workers collect wreckage from the crashed plane at a pier just outside Sochi. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said in televised remarks this morning that terrorism was not among the main theories, and that authorities are looking into a possible technical fault or a pilot error.

Several experts noted factors that could suggest a terror attack, such as the crew’s failure to report any malfunction and the fact that plane debris was scattered over a wide area.

The plane, which originated from Moscow’s military airport Chkalovsky and stopped in Sochi for refueling, was taking the defence ministry’s choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, to perform at a New Year’s concert at the Russian 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 and helping homeless people.

Sokolov said the government sees no need to heighten security measures at Russian airports.

Emergency crews found fragments of the plane about 1.5 kilometres from shore, and by this morning, rescue teams had recovered 11 bodies.

A plane with bodies from the crash has landed in Moscow where the remains will be identified, Sokolov said.

Today has been declared a nationwide day of mourning in Russia.

The Tu-154 is a Soviet-built three-engine airliner designed in the late 1960s. More than 1,000 have been built, and they have been used extensively in Russia and worldwide.

The plane that crashed was built in 1983, and underwent factory check-ups and maintenance in 2014, the defence ministry said.

With reporting by AFP and Garreth MacNamee

Read: Russian man who drove his car into an airport says he did it for love >

Read: ‘Nobody believed in him, only us’: Putin hails Trump in four-hour press conference >

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