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Criminal probe opened after explosion on Russian oil tanker kills three

28 October 2020

A criminal probe has been opened by Russian authorities after the remains of three sailors killed in an oil tanker explosion on October 24 were found. The search for the bodies had been called off after an unsuccessful search and rescue operation following the explosion on the tanker, the General Azi Aslanov, in the Sea of Azov.

Image: Russian Marine Rescue Service
Image: Russian Marine Rescue Service

Following an extensive search operation, the Russian Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport said there was no chance of finding the three missing sailors. However, on October 27, the Moscow Interregional Transport Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia announced that it had found the remains of the sailors. Genetic tests are now being carried out to confirm the identities of the bodies while investigators have also begun to look into possible violations of fire safety requirements on board the General Azi Aslanov.

The explosion on the tanker happened at around 19:00 local time in the Sea of Azov which connects to the Black Sea off Russia’s southwest coast. The General Azi Aslanov had been sailing from Port Kavkaz to Rostov-on-Don without a cargo when the explosion happened. The cause of the blast remains under investigation, however Russian news agency TASS reports that safety violations and hot work could have been a cause.

Image: Russian Marine Rescue Service
Image: Russian Marine Rescue Service

There were 13 crewmembers on board the tanker at the time of the explosion and ten were rescued while the search for the three missing sailors began. After several hours of searching, the men were presumed dead by authorities.

The Moscow Interregional Transport Investigation Department has said that it believes the explosion was caused after the ignition of a mixture of flammable Naphtha liquid in an empty storage tank. It is now exploring criminal charges under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation which states that an incident is a crime if the violation of fire safety requirements results in the death of two or more people. The department added that an investigation team is continuing to work at the scene, including investigators from the Krasnodar Transport Investigation Department and criminologists with experience in investigating such incidents.

After an initial inspection, the General Azi Aslanov was towed to Port Krym where investigators were able to board and begin a more in-depth investigation.

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