Piles of bones were found in the fire damaged wreckage of an Antonov-2 plane lost almost a year ago which a massive search had earlier failed to locate.
Officially, the 13 crew and passengers - including senior traffic police officials and their families - went missing on an illegal 'joyride' on 11 June 2012. Picture: Serovskiy Rabochiy newspaper
Officially, the 13 crew and passengers - including senior traffic police officials and their families - went missing on an illegal 'joyride' on 11 June 2012, possibly for a fishing expedition or a visit to a remote sauna.
Even though a search was ordered over an area the size of Western Europe, the "ghost plane" and macabre human remains were eventually located just eight kilotmetres from the airport from which it took off - in a place which had been intensively searched previously.
Two hunters came across the debris in a swamp at the end of last week, solving what RIA Novosti news agency dubbed 'one of the biggest modern mysteries in Russia'. But relatives fear a more sinister explanation, which is dismissed as a conspiracy theory by the authorities.
Andrey Safronov, father of victim Anton Safronov: 'They searched there last summer. All around was searched and nothing was found'.
According to the hunters who found the plane, they had come to the site by chance and only because the ice in the bog has not melted yet and they could walk on it. Pictures: Serovskiy Rabochiy newspaper
Last year's hunt was conducted by elite OMON troops, it was claimed. And now - suddenly - everything was found. And, most importantly, it was all on the surface, all the debris on the surface, all the bones on the surface, even though it was burning'.
Safronov claimed the crash site was staged to look like the scene of the tragedy, but that there were other explanations for the plane's demise.
'Now this is what I think: they brought them here, and offloaded them', he said. 'Who else could have done it in such manner? Only the military. Why do they need this? Just to hide it all. I think someone shot them down. Or, you know, around the same time, they launched from Plisetsk the missile Topol-M, which did not reach its goal. So, there are a lot of assumptions.'
'The only thing that can be seen in the video is a mountain of bones', said Anastasia Rogulina, whose sister perished in the crash, who claimed she was suspicious about the well-made video of the crash site.
She said the weather in the video did not match the actual weather on the day the plane was supposed to have been found; while there is fire damage on the plane, the surrounding foliage is unharmed, she claimed.
'I believe the plane was dragged to that place and burned. Judging by the video, there aren't even dead trees around it. The area is completely untouched, although everything should have burned,' she said.
Another relative Alexander Beglenko denied such theories, saying in the thick foliage and swamp it would have been easily possible to miss the wreckage.
Officials say there are three possible causes of the Antonov crash: 'the technical condition of the plane, a mistake by the pilot and the weather conditions'.
The bones from the site are undergoing DNA testing, with relatives expected to be given the remains of their loved-ones to bury in around two weeks. Pictures: Serovskiy Rabochiy newspaper
The failure of the original search promoted fanciful theories about its fate and even speculation the passengers had survived and were fighting for their lives in the wilderness.Komsomolskaya Pravda daily revealed the search area included the mythical Dyatlov pass in the northern Urals where a group of students vanished on an expedition in 1959 in a mystery that has never been solved.
Local Emergencies Ministry official Andrei Zalensky heavy winter snow had turned the area into an 'inaccessible bog' last summer. This was the reason the plane had not been located, he said. Surprisingly he added that the black box will not yield any data on the fatal flight.
'In this case the black box did not work. Or was not switched on,' he explained.
The bones from the site are undergoing DNA testing, with relatives expected to be given the remains of their loved-ones to bury in around two weeks.
'Debris of the plane will remain at the site of the crash for a couple of days as long as material evidence is being collected. After that, they will be removed and sent for technical expertise to establish the reason of the plane crash,' said an official from Rosaviatsia Federal Air Transport Agency.
Interior ministry official Valery Gorelykh dismissed claims over foul play. Part of the plane is submerged in the swamp and it was 'a miracle' that hunters had come across the debris.
'Fragments cannot be seen from the distance of 20 meters even now when the trees are not green yet. According to the hunters who found the plane, they had come to the site by chance and only because the ice in the bog has not melted yet and they could walk on it. In a few days the bog will be already impassable,' he said.
He stressed there had been damage to foliage. The hunters who found the wreckage were named as Sergei Skryabin and Alexander Kuznetsov.
'The plane damaged two trees,' he said. 'The crowns of other trees were intact after the plane crash which made airborne detection impossible'.
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