Russia pop group Na-Na describe plane fire 'panic'

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A Russian TV grab taken on January 1, of the wreckage of the Tu-154 aircraft at an airport in Surgut
Image caption,
Most of the passengers were evacuated before the explosion

Members of a Russian pop group, Na-Na, have described the panic on board a passenger jet when it caught fire and later exploded at a Siberian airport.

Three people were killed and at least 43 were injured after the Russian plane, carrying 124 people, burst into flames before take-off.

One band member said people had "been literally stepping on each other's heads" in an effort to escape.

The Tupolev plane had been due to fly from Surgut to Moscow.

Vadim Grebennikov, an emergency services spokesman, said the fire had begun in one of the engines as the aircraft taxied on the runway.

The fire then caused a powerful blast which destroyed the Tu-154 plane and caused flames across an area of 100 square metres, he said.

Most of the passengers were evacuated before the explosion.

'Running through flames'

"There was a thick, black smoke and people started to panic. They were literally stepping on each other's heads," said Sergei Grigoriyev, a singer with Na-Na, a band which was popular in Russia in the 1990s.

Image caption,
The blast destroyed the plane and spread flames across 100 square metres

"I saw my life flash before me," he said, according to Itar-Tass news agency.

Fellow band member Vladimir Politov said the group had escaped out an emergency exit over the wing and were all unharmed.

"When the engines were started up, something went wrong and the outer covering of the plane caught fire," Mr Politov said, Ria Novosti reported.

"We had trouble opening the emergency exits and people began to really panic, with some of them running right through the flames."

The Tu-154 entered service in the 1970s but a series of crashes triggered concerns over its safety record.

Russia's national carrier airline Aeroflot took all its remaining 23 Tu-154 aircraft out of service in January 2010.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed last year when a Polish Airforce Tu-154 crashed in western Russia.