Authorities in Russia lost contact with an AN-26 plane with 29 people on board in the Far Eastern Kamchatka region, local authorities reported on Tuesday.
The emergency services announced that they had spotted the area in which the plane fell into the sea, with a group of vessels dispatched and heading towards the site.
The plane of the Kamchatka Aviation Enterprise was en route to settlement of Palana from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky city when it went missing, according to a statement by the Far Eastern Transport Prosecutor’s Office.
The company owning the plane confirmed that it lost contact with the crew, adding that efforts are ongoing to uncover why this occurred. It also said that the aircraft was operable before the flight.
Preliminary reports showed that the plane did not respond in time to a planned communication session, with the connection lost when it was 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Palana’s airport, it added.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, there were six crew members and 23 passengers on board, most of them – residents of Palana, including the head of the settlement Olga Mokhireva and several other local officials.
The Russian Federal Transport Agency (Rosaviation) said the plane was flying in difficult weather conditions, which may have led to an accident. A piloting error is also being considered as another possible cause.
Weather forecasters confirmed that there was a cloud cover on the plane’s route at an altitude of 300-600 meters (about 985-1,970 feet), though horizontal visibility remained good and the wind was weak.
The missing AN-26 entered into use in 1982 and was scheduled to be retired from service on Aug. 30, 2021.
All emergency services in the region have been raised on alert, with two helicopters and a plane searching for the missing aircraft along with a group of rescuers on the ground heading to the place of its disappearance.
Palana’s hospital summoned all its staff in case rescued passengers need medical assistance.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered the formation of a commission to deal with the incident.
The Far Eastern Investigative Committee have also opened a criminal case for possible violation of transport safety rules.