At least 16 die as plane full of skydivers crashes in central Russia

An aircraft carrying skydivers has crashed in central Russia, killing 16 people and severely wounding six others, the country’s health ministry has announced.

The L-410 plane crashed around 9.20 am local time during a flight over the Republic of Tatarstan, Russian officials said. Six people rescued from the wreckage were described as being in a “very serious condition”,.

The Tass news agency said the plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the local airport. Images issued by the emergency ministry showed the aircraft split in half with a dented nose.

According to Russian media, the plane was built-in 1987 and was owned by the government-linked Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation and Navy, a sports and defence organisation.

The head of the organisation’s regional branch said the parachuting club that operated the flight was very experienced.

“We are the best, we are among the top five clubs,” Ravil Nurmekhametov told Tass, adding that his organisation hosted international parachuting competitions.

Russian authorities have begun an investigation into the cause of the crash. The president of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, who was travelling to the scene of the crash, told local media that the left engine of the plane failed.

“A tragedy happened. Unfortunately, at this moment we have lost 16 people,” he said.

A source in the aviation services told Tass that the plane could have been overloaded.

It was the third deadly crash in Russia this year involving the L-410 aircraft, a twin-engine transport plane produced by the Czech aircraft manufacturer Let Kunovice.

Poor aircraft maintenance and lax safety standards continue to be a problem in Russia despite efforts to improve its aviation safety record.

In Russia’s isolated regions, weather conditions are often extreme and unpredictable, and the country frequently experiences non-fatal air incidents that result in emergency landings and adjusted flights.

There were a number of fatal civilian plane crashes in eastern Russia over the summer.

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