Six people are missing after a private jet carrying out a medical evacuation from Thailand to Russia crashed in a remote area of Afghanistan after straying from its flight plan and disappearing from radar screens.
A regional spokesperson said the crash happened on Saturday in a mountainous area near Zebak district in Badakhshan province, adding that a rescue team had been dispatched but would take 12 hours to reach the crash site.
Zebak, a sparsely populated rural, mountainous area, is about 150 miles (250km) north-east of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
Russian aviation authorities said two passengers and four crew members were onboard the charter ambulance flight, which was travelling from Utapao airport, near Pattaya, to Moscow via India and Uzbekistan.
“Onboard was a bedridden patient in serious condition, a Russian citizen, who was transported from one of the hospitals in Pattaya to Russia,” the RIA news agency reported, citing a source at the Thai airport.
“She was accompanied by her husband, a private entrepreneur, also a Russian citizen, who paid for the flight.”
Several Russian media outlets said the passengers were a couple from Volgodonsk in southern Russia.
A manifest list for the plane, published by the Shot news outlet, appeared to show the crew were Russian nationals too.
Shot said the pilot of the jet – a Russian-registered, French-made Dassault Aviation Falcon 10 manufactured in 1978 – warned that fuel was running low and said the plane would try to land at an airport in Tajikistan. The pilot reported that one engine had stopped, followed by the second one. Twenty-five minutes after the initial call, the plane vanished from radar screens.
Tracking data from FlightRadar24 for the aircraft, analysed by the Associated Press, showed its last position just south of the city of Peshawar, Pakistan, at about 1330GMT on Saturday.
On Sunday, Afghan police said they had received reports of a plane crash in Badakhshan.
The Taliban-run Afghan aviation ministry, which is investigating the incident, said in a statement on X that the plane’s planned route did not include passing through Afghanistan’s airspace and that the jet’s deviation from its planned route was “probably due to technical issues”.
Russia’s investigative committee said it had opened a criminal case to determine whether safety rules had been violated.
The plane’s reported owner, a small Russian company called Athletic Group LLC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
International carriers have largely avoided Afghanistan since the Taliban’s 2021 takeover of the country. Those that briefly fly over rush through Afghan airspace for only a few minutes while over Badakhshan province’s Wakhan corridor, a narrow panhandle that juts out of the east of the country between Tajikistan and Pakistan.
Typically, aircraft heading toward the corridor make a sharp turn north near Peshawar and follow the Pakistani border before briefly entering Afghanistan. Zebak is close to the start of the Wakhan corridor.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report