Eighteen people, including five armymen, were martyred on Tuesday when a Pakistan Army Aviation aircraft crashed in a built-up area on the outskirts of Rawalpindi in the Mora Kalu, Rawalpindi before dawn Tuesday.
Fires, damaged homes and debris were visible in Mora Kalu village after daybreak. Troops and police cordoned off the residential area to search for plane debris and investigative evidence after the rescue efforts had ended.
According to Inter-Services Public Relations, the aircraft was on a routine training flight when it crashed but there was no immediate word on the cause of the accident or the type of aircraft involved. Two pilots were among the five army personnel martyred.
The crash also resulted in 12 fatal civilian casualties while 12 others were injured, ISPR added. However, local officials placed the number of civilian deaths at 13. Following the crash, a massive fire broke out that engulfed several houses. Most of the victims received burn injuries and children are among the dead.
Corps Commander Rawalpindi Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar visited the site of the plane crash where he was briefed by Pakistan Army officers on the incident. Lt-Col Saqib, Lt-Col Wasim, Naib-Subedar Afzal, Hawaldar Amin and Hawaldar Rahmat were among the martyred, the military’s media wing added.
Rescue teams of 1122 and Pakistan Army immediately reached the site and started the rescue operation. ISPR added, rescue officials extinguished the fire caused by the crash and all injured were shifted from the Holy Family Hospital to the Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi.
“We have taken 18 dead bodies to the hospital… that included 13 civilians and five crew members,” said local rescue spokesman Farooq Butt. “All the bodies are badly burned, so DNA tests are required for identification,” he added.
“I woke to the sound of a huge explosion. I stepped out of my house and saw huge flames and we rushed to the site,” said Mohammad Sadiq. “People were screaming. We tried to help them but the flames were too high and the fire too intense,” he said, adding he believed seven members of one family were among the dead.
Another resident Ghulam Khan said he heard the plane as it buzzed over his house, adding the aircraft appeared to be on fire before it crashed. “The sound was so scary,” he added.
Radio Pakistan reported that Rawalpindi’s deputy commissioner directed medical staff concerned to provide the best possible treatment to the injured and an emergency was declared at all hospitals.
One resident told media that the crash happened around 2am. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed their grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in Rawalpindi aircraft crash. In a statement, President Alvi condoled with the bereaved families and prayed for early recovery of those injured in the incident.
PM Imran also commiserated with the bereaved families and prayed for the recovery of those injured in the incident.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the crash and prayed for the high reward of the martyrs and courage for the bereaved families to bear this loss with fortitude.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif also offered his condolences to the families of those who perished and were injured in the crash.
Turkey on Tuesday expressed grief over the death of 18 people, including five military personnel, in the plane crash, some 30 kilometers from the capital Islamabad.
“We received the news with deep sorrow that a Pakistan Air Force plane on a training mission crashed into a residential area in the city of Rawalpindi of Pakistan,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said.
The statement offered condolences to Pakistan’s government as well as to bereaved people.
“We wish Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives in this tragic accident, convey our condolences to the friendly government and the brotherly people of Pakistan,” the statement added. Several men and women who lost their relatives in the crash were seen wailing and crying as rescuers put charred bodies of the victims into ambulances.
Funeral prayers of the deceased were offered at Chaklala Garrison, a statement issued by the ISPR said. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, serving and retired military personnel and relatives of the deceased were among those in attendance. While funeral prayers of 10 civilians were offered at Awan Dhoke.