Probe opens into deadly plane crash that killed 48

PK-661 plane crash

Authorities have opened a probe into the deadly plane crash in the country’s north-west the previous day that killed all 47 passengers and crew, a spokesman said Thursday.

Pervez George of the Civil Aviation Authority told that experts are working in the hillside village of Gug in the district of Abbottabad, where the small twin-propeller aircraft crashed and burst into flames after developing a fault in one of its two engines.

The military said troops have cordoned off the crash site and are using three helicopters to transport the remains of the victims from a hospital in the northwestern city of Abbottabad to the capital, Islamabad.

The plane belonging to the Pakistani national carrier, the Pakistan International Airlines, was travelling from the scenic mountain resort of Chitral to Islamabad when it went down shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, said the PIA spokesman, Daniyal Gilani. He said all passengers and five crew members were killed in the crash.

Witnesses said they saw the plane suddenly tilting and going down, then bursting into flames upon crashing in the village of Gug. The village is located next to another, Saddha Batolni, from where residents also joined the rescue work.

“The plane was swaying … then I saw it hitting the hill with a loud bang,” said Chaudhry Rustam, a villager who rushed to the crash site. Then, thick black smoke was seen billowing from the debris, he added.

Dozens of villagers helped retrieve the remains.

Zainab Nazakat said she was preparing dinner when she saw the plane coming down, hitting several trees and a water supply tank on an elevated ground.

“When we lifted one of its wings, there was a heap of a body remains under it,” said social worker Jabir bin Khayan.

Reporters at the site on Thursday saw the wreckage of the plane strewn over a 2 kilometre- (1.2 mile-) wide radius, with clothes, shoes and some of the passenger bags scattered about.

Officials placed wooden boxes with the remains of the victims into ambulances and the military said the bodies of victims would be taken to Islamabad in helicopters.

Among those killed in the crash was Junaid Jamshed, popular pop-singer-turned-Islamic-preacher who went to Chitral along with his wife, his family said. The couple’s remains were to be taken to the port city of Karachi after identification.

Earlier, Junaid Sarwar, a hospital spokesman in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, said only five bodies had been identified so far, as the remains of others were burnt so much that the National Database and Registration Authority could not identify them at their hospital.

“We are sending body parts of all the passengers to Islamabad for DNA tests,” Sarwar said.

Gug is about 90 kilometres (60 miles) north-west of Islamabad. PIA says the plane lost contact with the control tower just before the crash. Azam Sehgal, the PIA chairman, told a news conference at the Islamabad airport on Wednesday that the plane’s black box recorder had been found.

Sehgal said the pilot had told the control tower an engine developed a technical fault. Moments later he made a “mayday call,” shortly before the plane disappeared from radar. Sehgal said it was unclear what caused the crash.

Pakistan’s air industry has had a mixed record recently. About 150 people were killed in a crash near Islamabad in 2010, and last year, a military helicopter carrying several diplomats also crashed in the country’s north, killing eight people.

In 2012, a Bhoja Air passenger plane crashed near Islamabad due to bad weather, killing all 127 people on board.

Read more: Pakistan mourns 48 killed in air crash, as investigators seek answers