Russian minister: Pilot error or technical problem likely cause of jet crash

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Pilot error or technical fault are the main theories in the crash of a Russian Defense Ministry plane that had 92 people aboard, including members of a famous military band, on Sunday, the country's transport minister said.

Around 3,500 rescue workers and nearly 40 ships have been involved in a search effort since the three-engine Tu-154 dropped off radar about 20 minutes after taking off from Adler, near Sochi, Friday morning local time, the Defense Ministry said. Debris has been found in the Black Sea about a mile from shore.

Related: Search for Russian military jet continues

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Russian military jet crashes into Black Sea
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescuers carry the body of a victim of Russian Defense Ministry's TU-154 crash, found at the site of the Tu-154 plane crash near Sochi, Russia, 25 December 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25, 2016: A search and rescue operation at the crash site of a Russian Defense Ministry plane. A Tupolev Tu-154 plane of the Russian Defense Ministry with 92 people on board crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi on December 25, 2016. The plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, Russian servicemen and journalists to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria. Fragments of the plane were found about 1.5km from Sochi coastline. Artur Lebedev/TASS (Photo by Artur Lebedev\TASS via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25, 2016: A search and rescue operation at the crash site of a Russian Defense Ministry plane. A Tupolev Tu-154 plane of the Russian Defense Ministry with 92 people on board crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi. The plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, Russian servicemen and journalists to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria. Fragments of the plane were found about 1.5km from Sochi coastline. Artur Lebedev/TASS (Photo by Artur Lebedev\TASS via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 25 : Rescue boats search for the wreckage of a crashed Russian Tu-154 plane, belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry near the coastline of Sochi, Russia on December 25, 2016. A Tu-154 aircraft of the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea after it disappeared from radar, regional emergency service said on December 25, 2016. The aircraft was en route to Syrias Latakia to take part in a New Year's concert. Among the 92 people onboard the crashed plane, eight were crew members, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry confirmed that there were also nine journalists along with musicians from the Red Army Choir, or the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo by Ekaterina Lyzlova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Flowers in memory of passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, are placed at an embankment in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People lay flowers in memory of passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154, which crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, at an embankment in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Specialists unload submersibles for underwater search, after Russian military Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, at a port of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A woman lights a candle next to flowers and a portrait of one of the victims, famous Russian charity activist and founder of the Voters' League Elizaveta Glinka or Dr Liza, at a makeshift memorial at the embankment on the shore of the Black Sea in Sochi, on December 27, 2016, as rescue vessels search the area two days after a military plane carrying 92 people, including dozens of members of the Red Army Choir, crashed in the Black Sea. The main black box of the Syria-bound Russian military plane that crashed into the Black Sea with 92 people onboard has been found in a massive ongoing search operation, authorities said on December 27, 2016. The Tu-154 jet, whose passengers included more than 60 members of the internationally renowned Red Army Choir, was heading to Russia's military airbase in Syria when it went down off the coast of the resort city of Sochi shortly after take-off on December 25. / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 26, 2016: Emergency workers recover Tupolev Tu-154 wreckage from the black Sea. The Tu-154 plane of the Russian Defense Ministry with 92 people on board crashed into the Black Sea near the city of Sochi on December 25, 2016. The plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, Russian servicemen and journalists, and Yelizaveta Glinka (known as Doctor Liza), Spravedlivaya Pomoshch [Just Aid] International Public Organisation director, to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria. Fragments of the plane were found about 1.5km from Sochi coastline. Press office of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry/TASS (Photo by TASS\TASS via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 26:Specialists unload submersibles for underwater search, after Russian military Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea, at a port of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on December 26, 2016 in Sochi, Russia. Tupolev Tu-154 was carrying 92 people, including 68 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces, previously known as the Red Army Choir, nine journalists, and eight crew, as well as several servicemen. One of the people aboard was a famous Russian human rights activist, Yelizaveta Glinka (known as Doctor Liza). The plane crashed en route to Syria where the band had been going to perform during the New Year concert. (Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant via Getty Images)
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Eleven bodies and 154 body fragments had been discovered during the first 24 hours of the search, the ministry added.

While all causes were being considered, a "technical problem or piloting error," are the likely causes of the crash, Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said in a briefing Monday, according to Russian news agencies.

"Today, the main theories do not include terrorism, so we assume that either technical problems or a piloting error may have been the cause," Sokolov said at a briefing.

The plane disappeared from radar at around 5:20 a.m. Sunday local time (8:20 p.m. Saturday ET), Russian media reported.

The Defense Ministry told local media the plane was carrying members of the Alexandrov Military Ensemble for a performance at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Russian forces have been helping President Bashar al-Assad quash Syria's six-year civil war.

Nine Russian journalists, including a TV crew from Channel One, were also among those on board.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement Sunday: "I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of our citizens who died as a result of the air catastrophe over the Black Sea this morning," and declared Monday a national day of mourning.

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