Uncertainty remains over the number of passengers and crew who lost their lives when a Russian airliner crashed in stormy weather in eastern Ukraine Tuesday. The Russian Emergency Situation Ministry and Ukraine’s transport minister reported earlier Thursday through RIA Novosti news agency that 171 bodies had been recovered from the crash site.
But Pulkovo Airlines, which owned the three-engine Tu-154 jet, reiterated Thursday that a total of 170 people were on board the plane when it came down and exploded in Ukraine Tuesday. It previously announced the figure on Wednesday.
The St.-Petersburg-based air company said: “According to our data, 170 passengers and crew had checked in for the flight.”
The Soviet-designed Tu-154 was flying from the popular Black Sea resort of Anapa to Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, when it crashed 30 miles from the city of Donetsk with the loss of all the passengers - including 45 children - and crew.
Pulkovo said it was unlikely that a passenger had boarded the plane bypassing check-in, but promised to double-check the possibility the same day.
With a lightning strike being considered to be a possible cause of the tragedy, aviation officials also said Thursday they would start work to decipher the plane’s flight recorders later on the day.
Thursday has been declared a day of mourning in Russia.