A pilot error or a technical fault is likely to be the cause of Sunday's plane crash over the Black Sea, the Russian transport minister said on Monday. All 84 passengers and eight crew members on the Russian military's Tu-154 plane are believed to have died when it crashed two minutes after taking off from Sochi in southern Russia, the AP reports. The passengers included dozens of singers in Russia's world-famous military choir. More than 3,000 rescue workers on 32 ships including over 100 divers flown in from across Russia—were searching the crash site at sea and along the shore, the Defense Ministry said.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said in televised remarks on Monday morning that terrorism was not among the main theories, though several experts noted factors that could suggest a terror attack, such as the crew's failure to report any malfunction and the fact that plane debris was scattered over a wide area. The plane, which originated from Moscow's military airport Chkalovsky and stopped in Sochi for refueling, was taking the choir to perform at a New Year's concert at the Russian air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Emergency crews found fragments of the plane about 1 mile from shore, and by Monday morning, rescue teams had recovered 11 bodies. Monday has been declared a nationwide day of mourning in Russia. (Read more Russia stories.)