Moscow: Russian emergency services on Thursday concluded operations in the Black Sea where a Russian military aircraft crashed on Sunday, killing all 92 passengers and crew on board.
“The active phase of the search (for human remains and aircraft debris) has now concluded,” said a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.
Divers have managed to recover “the bodies of 20 persons and remains of nearly all the victims,” explained a rescue operation spokesperson.
The aircraft impacted the water at about 510 km/hour on Sunday, Efe news reported.
According to the latest official report of the Russian Ministry of Defense, issued on Wednesday, 239 human fragment remains have been recovered and would be used to identify the victims using next-of-kin DNA.
A Russian military spokesman, who announced the conclusion of the rescue search, said, “All the debris of the Tu-154 plane has been pulled from the water.”
Five days after the tragedy, the precise cause of the accident remained unknown, although rescue services have already recovered the three on-board “black boxes”.
The third flight data recorder tape recovered from the Tu-154 has been damaged but may be partly deciphered.
The black box itself, located in the tail section, was destroyed.
Local media have already published the leaked flight cabin’s final conversation, seconds before the impact, where the co-pilot can be heard yelling at the commander that the flaps have failed.
Experts and investigation teams have not yet discarded other possible causes of the catastrophe.
On board the doomed aircraft, apart from its crew of eight, were 64 members of the famous Alexandrov Army Choir, orchestra and dance ensemble, nine journalists, eight military members, two Russian civil servants, doctor Elizaveta Glinka, a Russian celebrity known as Doctor Liza, a humanitarian worker, a charity activist and the president of the Fair Help Russian NGO.
The Russian military song and dance ensemble were travelling Syria to perform at the Hmeimim air base of Russia for New Year’s celebrations.