Russia Mourns Plane Crash Victims

VOA News

Russia is observing a national day of mourning Sunday for the 217 passengers and seven crew members killed in a plane crash Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Nearly all of the passengers were Russian tourists returning to St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Three Ukrainians are also among the dead.

Emergency crews have recovered at least 129 bodies so far, along with both of the plane’s black boxes, which record all moments of the flight including communications among the pilots. Experts hope the data recorders will give them vital clues into what caused the plane to crash.

The Egyptian branch of Islamic State claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane. But aviation and military experts say that would be impossible. They say the plane was crushing at 9,100 meters before it crashed and say Islamic State does not have missiles that can reach that high.

Two major European airlines — Air France and Lufthansa — said they would stop flying over the area for safety reasons.

The Airbus A-321 was a charter flight operated by a small airline called Metrojet. It disappeared from radar 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh before dawn Saturday. It went down about 100 kilometers south of the town of El-Arish.

Egyptian Civil Aviation chief Hossam Kamal said safety checks before the flight did not turn up any problems and said the pilot did not issue an SOS before the plane disappeared.

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