Bodies of Russian Victims Brought Home

Bodies of Russian Victims Brought HomeBodies of Russian Victims Brought Home

A Russian cargo plane on Monday brought the first bodies of Russian victims killed in a plane crash in Egypt home to St. Petersburg, a city awash in grief for its missing residents.

The Metrojet Airbus A321-200 crashed Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula 23 minutes after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. Russian officials say it broke up at high altitude, scattering fragments of wreckage and bodies over a wide area in the Sinai.

All 224 people on board died, all but five of them Russians.

The Russian government plane brought 140 passengers to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport, touching down in the early morning dark, AP reported.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said in a televised news conference that another plane with more crash victims will travel from Cairo to St. Petersburg late Monday. He said the search for bodies at the Sinai crash site should wrap up by Monday 10 p.m. local time.

President Vladimir Putin declared a nationwide day of mourning on Sunday, and flags flew at half-staff across the country. St. Petersburg, where many of the victims are from, is holding three days of mourning through Tuesday.

Hundreds of mourners in Russia’s second-largest city on Sunday brought flowers, pictures of the victims, stuffed animals and paper planes on Sunday to the city’s airport. Others went to churches and lit candles in memory of the dead.

In the Sinai, aviation experts and search teams have been combing a 16-square-km area to find bodies and pieces of the jet. The Egyptian government said by midday Sunday, 163 bodies had been recovered.

Alexander Neradko, head of Russia’s federal aviation agency, told reporters on Sunday that the large area over which plane fragments were found indicates the jet disintegrated while flying at high altitude. The deputy general director of Metrojet, Alexander Smirnov only an external impact could have caused a Russian plane to dive into the Egyptian desert.