The flight took off at 7:22 a.m. local time for Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan. There was no fire at the crash site.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev expressed condolences on Twitter to the victims’ families and friends, adding that a government commission was created to investigate the crash.
“All those guilty will be severely punished in accordance with the law,” he wrote.
Forty-nine people were hospitalized, 18 of them in critical condition, according to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Among the dead are the captain of the aircraft, Marat Muratabaev, and a Kazakh journalist, Dana Kruglova, of informburo.kz, the ministry said.
Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar said at a news conference that eight of the 12 deaths occurred at the scene. Sklyar said pilot error and technical malfunctions are considered preliminary causes of the crash, according to Russia’s Tass state news agency. The aircraft’s tail touched the runway twice as the flight took off, he said.
Bek Air is a low-cost regional carrier based in Kazakhstan. Friday’s crash appeared to be the first for the airline, although not for the aircraft type. In July, a Virgin Australia Fokker 100 experienced an engine failure after takeoff, and the crew was unable to restart the left engine. The plane landed safely with no injuries.
Another Fokker 100 flying from Germany to France experienced engine failure on takeoff a year ago and landed safely back in Hamburg 33 minutes after its departure. Production of the aircraft was halted in 1997 after the Dutch manufacturer went bankrupt.
The Fokker 100 that crashed Friday was 23 years old, and Kazakhstan’s Civil Aviation Committee said the plane’s airworthiness certificate had been issued in May. Bek Air has 10 of the jets in its fleet, nine of which were in use.
The committee said the airline canceled 100 flights Thursday through Dec. 31, affecting more than 9,000 passengers who are awaiting refunds.
The Civil Aviation Committee said 40 ambulance crews went to the crash site. A video uploaded to Instagram showed one emergency service worker running through the snow, carrying a baby toward nearby ambulances.
Friday’s disaster was the first major commercial airline crash in Kazakhstan since 2013, when a SCAT Airlines regional jet went down outside Almaty, killing all 21 people on board. The country has declared Saturday a day of mourning, and Kazakh news sites have switched to black-and-white programming in solidarity.