PIA plane with 99 onboard crashes in Karachi, 77 killed Three houses destroyed, 12 damaged; CEO says aircraft was ‘technically sound’, aviation ministry to oversee inquiry

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Staff Reporter

Karachi

The Sindh government health officials on Friday confirmed that 77 people were killed after a Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane, with 99 people including 7 crew members, crashed into Karachi’s Model Colony near Jinnah International Airport on Friday.
At least three houses have been destroyed, while around 10 to 12 are reportedly damaged. A dozen fire engines took part in putting out fire which erupted after the plane’s crash, an official said. The injured are being treated at the Civil Hospital Karachi and Darus Sehat Hospital. Five bodies have been identified so far.
The pilot of Flight 8303 was heard transmitting a mayday to the tower shortly before it crashed in the poor and congested residential area known as Model Colony.
Zafar Masood, the chief executive of the Bank of Punjab, was aboard the flight when it came down but survived with “multiple injuries and fractures,” a spokesperson for the bank said.
Meeran Yousuf, the media coordinator for the Sindh health minister, confirmed that three passengers had survived and were brought to hospitals. She identified the survivors as Zubair, Tahira and Zafar Masood, who is the president of Bank of Punjab. Director Programming 24 News Ansar Naqvi was also among the passengers. Two passengers have been identified by their DNA and returned to their family, she added.
PIA Chief Executive Officer Arshad Malik, talking to media said that a PIA plane that crashed earlier Friday was “technically sound.” He said the Aviation Ministry would oversee an inquiry into the incident and that his team stood with the government of Pakistan, the armed forces, and the National Disaster anagement Authority.
“We want the inquiry report to be completed as soon as possible but we cannot say when. We do not wish to interfere with the inquiry in any way.”
The PIA boss confirmed that 99 people, including passengers and air crew, were aboard the flight and that as of now, “we have reports of 19 dead in Civil Hospital and 22 in other hospitals”.
He said the pilot established a final landing approach and the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority control room gave him a green signal to go ahead.
“The pilot then did a go-around. He said he was preparing for a second approach.
“Now what was the reason for the go-around? Please do not have any suspicions or doubts,” Malik said, adding that facts could be ascertained through flight recorder and the black box. “Nothing can be said till the black box is retrieved.”
The PIA top official added that after the go-around, the pilot gave a call stating he “will establish for second approach”.
“Something happened there and there can only be ambiguities until we receive the voice and data recorders. I say this with responsibility that when it is received, we’ll know whether there was a technical fault, some other issue, some outside activity, bird hit, etc.
“When the plane lowered down, the ATC asked the pilot if there was an issue and the pilot responds, ‘Yes, I am facing a problem,’ after which the communication gets cut off.
“The plane crash-landed in a street; there was damage but thankfully no building collapsed,” he added.
The PIA CEO also spoke about the victims and the response to the tragedy. “We need to handle the situation. We will handle this crisis,” he said.
“The families of the victims are welcome to come and stay at the airport hotels, which have been vacated. All affected persons are going to be accommodated in airport hotels and other government facilities in Qasr-e-Naz,” Malik noted.
He said the Safety Investigation Board “is a government body that will oversee the investigation” and that it is “independent of PIA and will operate under its own SOPs”.
Malik also explained that the monitoring of the aircraft’s technical soundness was done by the industry, which has a database through which “they keep a close eye on the aircraft’s health”.
“I do not wish to give any further information [on the survivors] and I do not want to give anyone false hopes. Our emergency response centre is working round-the-clock to ascertain the facts,” he said.
“I will provide more information as soon as we have it.” Unverified footage circulating on social media appeared to show the jet flying low over a residential area with flames shooting from one of its engines. Other videos showed black plumes of smoke rising from a row of houses.
The government of Sindh declared a state of emergency in all major hospitals in the city due to the plane crash. The plane crashed in a residential area called Model Colony.
Flight-tracking service Flightradar24 said that the 15-year-old aircraft attempted to land at 9.34 a.m., but the landing was aborted at 275 feet and it climbed back to 3,175 feet. The plane’s signal was lost at 9.40 a.m. while flying at 525 feet.
Meeran Yousuf, 19 bodies have been taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, whereas 15 bodies were taken to Civil Hospital. Several houses were damaged in the area where the plane crashed. The families located at the crash site were being vacated from the area.
Ambulances faced with difficulty as the streets were quite narrow and the huge presence of people made it difficult for relief operations to continue.
Rescue sources said that several people have been helped out from under the rubble and shifted to a hospital for medical treatment. “Due to the rush, we are encountering difficulties in carrying out relief operations,” said SSP Malir.
Yousuf said that the deceased are being identified through DNA extraction.
Eyewitnesses said the Airbus A320 appeared to attempt to land two or three times before crashing in a residential area near the airport. “The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” a witness said near the site, just a few kilometres short of the airport.
Footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the site of the crash within the congested residential area. Ambulances and rescue officials arrived at the scene to help residents. Eyewitnesses say that the plane was on fire in the air before crashing. Videos from the crash site showed bodies buried underneath rubble and residents gathering in streets littered with debris while Rangers and Sindh police carried out rescue operations. Another video showed Edhi workers and firefighters hosing down the remains of the aircraft and searching for survivors. Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah had earlier said during a media talk that two passengers had survived and were brought to hospitals in injured condition. The Sindh government’s spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab also confirmed the same in a tweet.
Soon after the crash, Sindh Minister of Health and Population Welfare declared an emergency in all major hospitals of Karachi.
Speaking to the media outside Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho said that officials were currently in the process of identifying the deceased in order to inform their families.
“We don’t know how many are injured and how many are dead. I am visiting hospitals […] we were already in an emergency situation due to Covid-19 so doctors were alert. We have also alerted surgical units,” she said.
According to eyewitnesses, the plane crashed hardly a few hundred feet away from the runway. A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control, posted on the website LiveATC.net, indicated he had failed to land and was circling around to make another attempt.
“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” a pilot can be heard saying. “Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway. “Sir – mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.
Rescue workers and local residents pulled people from the debris, as firefighters tried to put out the flames. “I heard a big bang and woke up to people calling for the fire brigade,” said Karachi resident Mudassar Ali.
According to Edhi Foundation spokesman Muhammad Bìlal, 50 bodies have been shifted to two hospitals, including 18 to the JPMC and 22 to the Civil Hospital.
PIA’s Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik has ruled any possibility that the plane had any technical or any other issue. “All standard operating procedures were followed before the plane’s takeoff,” he clarified in a news conference Friday night.
He said the inquiry will be held to ascertain the cause of crash. “PIA has best ranking in the safety index in the history.” He said the transparent inquiry will be held to ascertain the cause of crash and pledged to share the details of the investigation with the families of the victims.
“Our crew is trained to handle emergency landings. All my prayers are with the families. We will continue to provide information in a transparent manner,” said the spokesperson, Hafeez.
For his part, Pakistan Airlines Pilots’ Association spokesperson Tariq Yahya said that the plane seemed to be gliding at the end. “Communications show that the plane did not have power at the end and was gliding and couldn’t make it to the runway,” said Yahya, adding that it didn’t have power when it was asked to climb to 3,000 feet. He added, however, that these were “only assumptions and we will not know the exact cause until we find the blackbox.”
The head of Edhi Foundation, Faisal Edhi, said that the Edhi teams have shifted 42 to 43 dead bodies to hospitals while five persons were rescued in injured condition.
He added that one among the survivors, the president of Bank of Punjab Zafar Masood, fell over a vehicle after the plane crashed into the residential area.