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Image: Superjet International

Crashed Aeroflot plane “struck by lightning”

A number of the survivors from Sunday’s horrific crash in Moscow say that lightning hit just after take-off.

Some of the passengers and crew who survived the crash of an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet-100 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday said it was struck by lightning moments after it took off, the BBC reports.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off at 18:02, bound for Murmansk.

The jet burst into flames on landing and 41 of the 78 people on board were killed. The black boxes have reportedly been retrieved.

Investigators have made no official comment on the claims about the lightning strike. Modern aircraft are built to withstand lightning, and Aeroflot, which ordered 100 Sukhoi Superjet-100 aircraft last year, has said only that the plane returned for “technical reasons”.

But passengers say the plane was struck just after take-off, and crew said that lightning appeared to be responsible for a loss of communications. The crew sent a distress signal when malfunctions occurred due to bad weather.

“Like a grasshopper”
Two emergency landings were attempted, the first aborted because it was too fast, and on the second the automatic systems failed, according to reports. A witness said the plane “jumped like a grasshopper” as it struck the runway.

The jet hit the tarmac three times and debris from its undercarriage got into an engine, setting it ablaze.

It landed with full fuel tanks because the crew had decided it was too dangerous to dump fuel over Moscow, Russia’s Interfax agency reported.

One passenger who survived, Pyotr Yegorov, was quoted as saying that the flight “had just taken off and the aircraft was hit by lightning”, adding: “The landing was rough – I almost passed out from fear.”

Another, Dmitry Khlebushkin, said: “I’m alive only thanks to the stewardesses. The girls stood there in the smoke, it was dark, extremely hot, but they pulled people out and helped them get down the chutes”.

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