NEW: Tuesday declared a day of mourning in Kyrgyzstan
NEW: One of the plane's black boxes has been found
Bad weather and possible ‘crew error’ appeared to be an early focus of an inquiry into what caused a Boeing 747 freighter to crash Monday in a village near Kyrgyzstan’s capital.
The jumbo Turkish freighter slammed into the village of Dacha-Suu on the outskirts of Bishkek, killing 37 people and destroying at least 15 houses, Kyrgyzstan’s emergency situations ministry said.
Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev blamed the crash on “crew error,” but offered no details about the claim.
The deputy prime minister said on Kyrgyzstan’s state-run Kabar news agency that the government had reviewed preliminary information from the accident. Air accident investigations typically take months.
A thick mist caused poor visibility at the time of the crash and was being cited as a possible contributor to Monday’s crash. Abulgaziev said other planes landed safely at Manas airport before the crash.
Pictures of the immediate aftermath of the accident showed a portion of the village badly damaged. In one image, the plane’s smoldering fuselage could be seen jutting out of the snow and the remnants of destroyed buildings. A car’s roof was completely ripped off in another.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed a decree declaring Tuesday a day of mourning.
The Boeing 747 was headed from Hong Kong to Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek, according to data from the tracking website FlightRadar24. It crashed at 7:18 a.m. local time, about two kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the Manas airport, according to Kyrgyzstan’s state-run Kabar Agency.
It’s not clear how many people were on board, but the freighter had seating for 10 – including two pilots, two observers and six additional passengers, according to a description on the airline’s website. The precise breakdown of how many villagers and crew members were killed has not yet been released.
One of the plane’s black boxes was found at the scene and it will be examined by experts from Moscow, Kubatbek Boronov, the minister of emergency situations, told Kabar.
The cargo plane was operated by ACT airlines, an Istanbul-based freight airline, but was flown for Turkish Airlines – the country’s national carrier – under its flight number. The flight’s ultimate destination was Istanbul, Turkey, Abulgaziev said, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency..
ACT Airlines confirmed the news of the crash on its website.
“The cause of the accident is unknown at this time and further details will be provided as they become available,” the statement said.
Boeing also extended its condolences in an emailed statement, as did Turkish Airlines in a tweet.
“A Boeing technical team stands ready to provide assistance at the request and under the direction of government investigating authorities,” the Boeing statement said.
ACT Airlines, which according to its website operates a fleet entirely made up of jumbo 747s, also operates as myCargo Airlines.
The plane that crashed was manufactured in 2003 and it first flew for Singapore Airlines Cargo, according to flight tracking from Flightradar24 and a detailed description of the aircraft on the company’s website.
Airlines have cut back on their use of the Boeing 747 as full-fledged passenger aircraft in recent years, but the jumbo airliner makes up the backbone of the global freight fleet.
The 747’s enormous size and unique rising nose cargo door have made it the aircraft of choice for many cargo airlines.
The aircraft model has been involved in several crashes over the past decade, including a pair of accidents in 2010 and 2011 attributed to on board fires involving the shipment of lithium ion batteries. Shifting cargo aboard a National Airlines 747 was blamed for a crash in 2012 when the jumbo airliner was taking off from Kabul, Afghanistan, killing all seven aboard.
CNN’s Jon Ostrower reported from New York, while Joshua Berlinger wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Joe Sterling reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Emma Burrows in Moscow, Donie O’Sullivan in New York, Zahra Ullah in Hong Kong and Hande Atay and Merieme Arif in Atlanta contributed to this report.