By Karine Kalantarian
A plane bound for Belarus’s capital Minsk crashed as it was about to take off from Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport early on Thursday, injuring eight of 21 people on board.
All of them were hospitalized immediately after the crash. Doctors said injuries suffered by them are not life-threatening.
“All patients are in a stable state of medium gravity,” Artur Safarian, head of the emergency care unit at the Armenia Medical Center in Yerevan, told RFE/RL. “They are still in a state of shock.”
According to Armenia’s Civil Aviation Department, the Canadian-made CRJ-100 belonging to the Belarusian national airline Belavia tilted leftwards, hit the ground with one of its wings and flipped over moments after the takeoff. The head of the government agency, Artyom Movsesian, the plane burst into flames in the process. Firefighters arrived at the scene less a minute later and quickly put out the fire, he said.
President Robert Kocharian discussed the accident at an emergency meeting later in the morning with Movsesian and Armenia’s top law-enforcement officials. “Law-enforcement bodies were instructed to conduct an investigation jointly with aviation authorities,” the presidential press service said in a statement. It said the inquiry will also involve representatives of the Inter-State Aviation Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as officials from Belarus and the plane’s Canadian manufacturer.
Speaking to journalists, Movsesian argued that Armenian aviation specialists are not familiar with that type of aircraft and need expert assistance from abroad. He refused to speculate about possible causes of the crash, saying only that the three crew members of the CRJ-100 told him that the plane gravitated leftwards during the takeoff and that they had trouble keeping it on the runway.