More Remains of Plane Crash Victims Flown to Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–More than 18 months after the deadly crash of an Armenian airliner in southern Russia, Armenia received on Thursday the remains of ten more victims from the worst air disaster in its history. The disfigured corpses of three people, among them a former head of Soviet Armenia’s secret police and body fragmen’s of seven others were flown to Yerevan after lengthy DNA tests conducted by Russian forensic experts. Officials said all of them have been identified and will be handed over to family members. Airbus A-320 of the Armavia National Airline plunged into the Black Sea as it tried to land in the Russian resort city of Sochi in May 2006, killing all 113 people on board. Only the bodies of 46 of them have been fully or partially recovered from the sea and identified by forensic experts. Russian aviation authorities, which led an official investigation into the crash, concluded in July 2006 that it was essentially caused by pilot error. They said the A-320 crew lost control of the plane as they made a second attempt to land at Sochi airport. The Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department, however, questioned some of the conclusions drawn by Russian investigators. It said in particular that they failed to take note of Sochi airport’s alleged failure to "detect dangerous weather conditions," which is thought to have prevented the Armavia plane from landing safely on first attempt. Armavia’s owner Mikhail Baghdasarian insists that the A-320 would have avoided the crash had it not received a last-minute order to veer away from the airport’s runway and make a second approach.

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