Pilot Error Being Investigated as Cause of Russian Plane Crash That Left No Survivors

Russian officials are looking into three possible explanations for a plane crash that killed 28 people, including that the pilot's actions caused the plane to go down.

On Tuesday, an Antonov An-26 passenger plane lost contact with air traffic control en route to Palana, a village north of the Kamchatka peninsula. After locating the crash site about three miles from its intended runway, Russian officials found there were no survivors and as of Wednesday afternoon have been able to only find the bodies of 19 of the 28 people who were on board.

A technical commission was formed to investigate the crash, according to Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev, and the cause remains unknown. However, the commission is looking into three main causes, including unfavorable weather conditions, technical failure and pilot error, Savelyev told Russian President Vladimir Putin, TASS, a Russian media outlet, reported.

Putin met with several government officials on Wednesday and opened up his remarks with an acknowledgment of the plane crash. Putin called it a "tragedy" and said he hopes assistance to the victims' families will be "settled without delay."

russia plane crash pilot error
A commission is looking into pilot error as one of three potential causes of the plane crash that left 28 people dead on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via teleconference, at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 7. Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Complicating rescue operations is the terrain and "complex weather conditions," according to TASS. Savalyev reportedly told Putin that his plane had to take an alternate route because of weather conditions and "experienced no problems."

"That is why we want to understand why the plane's commander made such a difficult decision," TASS reported Savalyev said, offering no further details.

Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov announced a three-day long region-wide mourning for the victims of the crash and ordered flags be flown at half-staff throughout the region. Among those on board the plane was Olga Mokhireva, the head of the local government in Palana, according to the Kamchatka government. Two passengers were under the age of 12, Alexander Zabolichenko, deputy chairman of the Kamchatka government, told CNN.

Rescue operations had to be suspended on Tuesday, according to Solodov, because of the weather and high waves. However, they resumed on Wednesday and the Associated Press reported there was a plan to deploy professional divers, as the crash happened on a coastal cliffside.

The Antonov An-26 is a two-propeller plane that's considered a "light transport plane." This wasn't the first time a plane of its kind crashed and in 2012 an Antonov An-28 crashed while it was flying the same route as the plane that crashed on Tuesday, according to the AP.

A criminal investigation has been opened into Tuesday's crash and TASS reported that criminal charges could be filed if investigators find evidence that anyone violated the safety compliance of the plane.