Sixteen of the 22 passengers aboard a Russian plane were killed Sunday morning when it crashed near Menzelinsk in the republic of Tatarstan in central Russia. The plane was carrying 20 parachutists and two crew members, Al Jazeera reports. Pilots reported an engine failure soon after takeoff and requested an emergency landing, but couldn't make it back to the airport. The plane hit a parked van with its wing and flipped over, the Moscow Times reports. It ended up broken in half with significant damage to the nose; all of the survivors were seated in the back. They were hospitalized in serious condition.
The Let L-410 Turbolet, a Czech-built light twin-engine short-range transport aircraft, was owned by the Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Navy of Russia, an aeroclub in Menzelinsk. "We are the best, we are among the top five clubs. Cosmonauts train here," said the head of the club, who denied that it was at fault for the accident. Russia has opened a criminal investigation to determine whether any safety rules were violated, and a source says the state Cosmonauts Training Centre has suspended training with the club pending the outcome of the probe. Poor maintenance and low safety standards have resulted in a significant number of plane crashes in the country. (Read more Russia stories.)