Four crew were killed on Saturday when a Russian airliner crashed into a motorway and broke up into three pieces after overshooting the runway at an international Moscow airport.
The Red Wings airlines’ Russian-made Tu-204 jet -- empty of passengers and carrying its eight crew -- caught fire after crashing through the perimeter fence of Vnukovo airport in the west of the city, officials said.
Wreckage was strewn across the motorway, but there were no immediate reports of any injuries among road users.
The aircraft was returning from the Czech Republic after flying passengers from Moscow to Pardubice airport outside Prague, a Czech airport official said.
The stricken white-and-red liner ended up with both its nose and tail sections separated from the main body, images broadcast on state television showed.
The plane’s nose was left on the highway with only a tangle of wreckage linking it to the aircraft’s body, which was slumped on the motorway embankment with its disconnected tail lying further down.
“According to updated information, four people were killed and four more were injured,” the interior ministry said in a statement published on Russian news agencies.
The emergencies ministry confirmed the jet was carrying no passengers and eight crew, although earlier reports had said 12 people were on board.
“All the injured are in a serious condition with head injuries,” a health ministry official told the Interfax news agency.
Interfax said that two of the dead were the flight captain and second pilot, whose corpses were found at the site of the crash. The identities of the other dead are not yet known.
The crash took place during high winds and a snowstorm in Moscow, but the cause of the accident was not immediately clear.
The state aviation security watchdog Rosaviatsya said it had sent a letter to the jet’s Tupolev maker on Friday about possible problems with the break system of the Tu-204 jet, RIA Novosti reported.
The letter was sent after another Tu-204 experienced problems with its breaks during a previously unreported incident on December 21, said the news agency.
Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said all options -- including bad weather, pilot error and a technical malfunction -- were being explored as possible causes.
President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the accident and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an investigation into its causes.
The emergencies ministry said a total of 204 ministry staff and 12 pieces of equipment were deployed to the scene.
Aviation disasters remain a scourge across the former Soviet Union due to ageing hardware that often has not been replaced since the fall of the Soviet regime, as well as human error.
The Tu-204 is a modern Russian-made passenger jet. Seventy-two have been made and 51 are in operation, nine of which belong to Red Wings.
The accident came days after all 27 people on board a Kazakh military jet were killed in a crash in the south of the ex-Soviet Central Asian state.