The pilot reported technical difficulties and requested to make a landing, according to multiple reports citing state officials

By Adam Carlson
Updated October 31, 2015 09:55 AM
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Credit: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Two hundred and twenty-four people are presumed dead after their plane crashed shortly after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Saturday, officials told the Associated Press.

Among the dead are 17 children, ages 2 to 17, 138 women and 69 men, the BBC reports, citing Russian officials.

The plane was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew, according to the BBC.

The plane was bound for St. Petersburg, Russia, according to the AP. It took off at 5:51 a.m. local time and disappeared from radar about 23 minutes later, according to the AP, citing a statement first broadcast by the state-run news agency MENA.

Onboard were Elena Rodina and Alexqander Krotov – newlyweds – their friend Yulia Zaitseva told the AP near St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport, where many friends and family have gathered in the wake of the crash.

“We were friends for 20 years. She was a very good friend who was ready to give everything to other people,” Zaitseva told the AP. “To lose such a friend is like having your hand cut off.”

The Russian government has declared Sunday a day of mourning, according to the AP. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into the crash, according to CNN.

The pilot reported technical difficulties and requested to make a landing, Egyptian and Russian sources said, according to the AP and CNN.

The weather was clear, according to CNN.

The plane’s altitude at the time it lost contact – 31,000 feet – would mean it could not have been struck from the ground, according to the BBC.

According to the BBC, ISIS claimed responsibility for the crash, although they did not specify how they were involved. However, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov called it a “fabrication” and said they were working with Egyptian officials. Air traffic controllers are being questioned, the BBC reports, and the plane’s black box will be analyzed.

“I now see a tragic scene,” an official on the scene told Reuters, according to the BBC. “A lot of dead on the ground and many died whilst strapped to their seats.”

Speaking Saturday during a state visit to Kyrgyzstan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed condolences at the still-developing tragedy.

“We don’t know any details about it, but obviously the initial reports represent tremendous tragedy, loss, and we extend our condolences to the families and all those concerned,” he told reporters, according to the AP.

There were conflicting reporters about whether all 224 victims were Russian citizens.

Sharm el-Sheikh, in the Sinai peninsula, is a popular tourist destination, according to CNN; and Russian tourists made up nearly a third of Egypt’s visitors in 2014, according to the AP.

In a statement Saturday, the plane’s manufacturer, Airbus, confirmed the crash. (Since 2012, it has been operated by Metrojet, the company said.)

“The concerns and sympathy of the Airbus employees go to all those affected by the tragic accident of flight 7K9268,” the company tweeted.