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Death toll in Russian plane crash reaches 45 (updated)

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June 22, 2011, 10:39 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Associated Press

Emergency workers carry a stretcher with a body near the wreckage of a Tu-134 plane, belonging to the RusAir airline, near the city of Petrozavodsk Tuesday, June 21, 2011.
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MOSCOW (AP) — A 9-year-old boy died of his injuries Wednesday, bringing the death toll in the crash of a Russian passenger plane that slammed into a highway in heavy fog to 45, officials said. The RusAir Tu-134 on a flight from Moscow crashed just moments from landing at the Petrozavodsk airport in Russia's northwestern province of Karelia.

Eight people initially survived, dragged from the burning wreckage by locals.

The ministry said the boy died of his injuries early Wednesday. His mother died in the crash, but a 14-year-old sister survived.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday that preliminary information shows the crash was caused by the jet's pilot missing the runway in adverse weather conditions.

Aviation officials said the plane's approach was too low, so it clipped a tree and then hit a high-power line before slamming into the ground.

A traffic controller who oversaw the plane's approach said that visibility near the airport was bad — close to the minimum level at the time of the crash — but the pilot still decided to land.

Both the plane's pilots were killed in the crash.

The business daily Kommersant said the Petrozavodsk airport has an outdated navigation equipment that might have made it more challenging for the plane's pilot to make the final approach in poor weather.

Russia and other former Soviet republics have had poor air safety records in recent years. Experts blame aging equipment, weak government controls, insufficient crew training and a cost-cutting mentality.

The daily Moskovsky Komsomolets quoted one pilot, Sergei Knyshov, as saying that the level of crew training has fallen compared with Soviet times. "The main cause is that the system of pilot preparation has been broken," he said.

Aviation safety expert Valentin Dudin told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that pilots sometimes are reluctant to abort landings in bad weather and fly to other airports because management at some Russian carriers strongly encourages fuel saving.

"Profits come first," he said.
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