A Russian newspaper reports evidence is growing that a missile was responsible for the crash of a Siberia Airlines passenger jet last week that killed all 78 people on board. There are also indications that many of the passengers and crew were alive as the plane plunged more than 11,000 meters to the Black Sea.
A report in the Russian daily newspaper, Kommersant, said air traffic controllers heard the captain ask his crew, "Where are we hit?" in a frantic radio transmission just seconds after an explosion rocked the airplane.
Vladimir Zhukov, deputy chief of Russia's North Caucusus air traffic control, was quoted as saying nothing more was heard even though it appeared the crew continued to try to transmit for another 40 seconds.
Mr. Zhukov said the radio transmission leads him to believe that a missile caused the crash. He said he does not believe it hit the plane directly but exploded nearby, spraying the airliner with shrapnel.
The Kommersant report also said officials investigating the crash now believe many of the passengers and crew survived the initial explosion and were alive while the plane fell 11,000 meters to the Black Sea.
Igor Shipanov, chief coroner of the Sochi morgue, told the paper that even though some of the bodies had what appeared to be shrapnel wounds, it is most likely that many of the victims died from the force of the impact when the airplane crashed into the sea.
Russian investigators said Tuesday they had found what looked like missile parts in the debris of the airliner they have recovered so far.
Then on Thursday, Vladimir Patopov, Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council, told Kommersant he is sure that the reason for the crash is an external explosion.
Almost from the beginning their have been indications that the crash was caused by a missile, perhaps an S-200 surface to air missile fired by Ukrainian forces, which were conducting military exercises in the area at the time.
Ukraine has denied it was responsible for the crash but has said it will not discount the missile theory. Russian, Ukrainian and Israeli experts are investigating the cause of the crash.
The plane was on a flight from Tel Aviv to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk when it crashed into the Black Sea. Most of those on board were Russian born Israeli citizens.