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Black Sea Plane Crash Kills 113

MOSCOW (AP) -- An Armenian passenger plane crashed in stormy weather early Wednesday off Russia's Black Sea coast as it was headed in for landing, killing all 113 people on board, emergency officials said.

The Airbus A-320, which belonged to the Armenian airline Armavia, disappeared from radar screens just under four miles from the shore and crashed after making a turn and heading toward the Adler airport near the southern Russian city of Sochi, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said. Rescue officials in the ministry's southern regional branch said all 113 people aboard the plane, including six children, were killed.

Wreckage from the plane was found near the shoreline, Beltsov said, and salvage workers said the fuselage was found at a depth of nearly 1,500 feet. Search and rescue teams have pulled 11 bodies from the water, Beltsov said.

The plane disappeared from radar at about 2:15 a.m. local time during a flight from Yerevan to Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea in southern Russia, Beltsov said.

Beltsov said that the plane went down while trying to make a repeat attempt at an emergency landing; the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian air control agency as saying that the plane's crew had not reported an emergency.

Andrei Agadzhanov, Armavia's deputy commercial director, said the crew had communicated with Sochi ground controllers while the plane was flying over the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The ground controllers reported stormy weather but told the crew the plane could still land, the representative said. Just before the landing, however, the ground controllers told the flight to circle again before approaching the airport. Then the plane crashed.

He said the crew was experienced and that the stormy weather was "certainly" the cause.

Rescuers found parts of the plane some four miles from the shore, along with empty lifejackets -- an indication that passengers had no time to put them on, the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unidentified local emergency official as saying. Rough seas, driving rain and low visibility were hampering the search, Russian news agencies reported.

Agadzhanov said that the airline's deputy general director, Vyacheslav Yaralov, had been aboard.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Lawrence Sheets
Lawrence Scott Sheets concentrates on covering the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union from his base in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. From 2001 to 2005, Sheets was NPR’s Moscow Bureau Chief, and covered the countries of former USSR, including Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia. Among major stories Sheets has covered for NPR have been the tragic siege of a school by a pro-Chechen separatist terror group in 2004 in which 330 mostly children were killed, the 6-week long "Orange Revolution" that brought down Ukraine’s old government in 2004, and the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia in 2003. Sheets has also reported for NPR from Iran and Afghanistan. He covered the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan during 2001 and 2002, including the bloody Taliban uprising at a fortress in Mazar e Sharif in which hundreds of people died.Sheets’ reports can be heard on NPR's , All Things Considered, Day to Day, and Weekend Edition.