Pakistan International Airlines flight crashes, killing 48
Flight PK-661 went down en route to Islamabad, popular singer-preacher among passengers, officials say
A plane belonging to Pakistan's national carrier crashed and burst into flames on Wednesday with 48 people on board, killing all of them, police and an airline spokesman said.
According to senior police officer Khurram Rasheed, the plane crashed in a village in the district of Abbottabad, 75 kilometres northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The small twin-propeller aircraft was travelling from the city of Chitral to Islamabad when it crashed shortly after takeoff.
According to Daniyal Gilani, the spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, the plane had lost touch with the control tower prior to the crash. He said the plane was carrying 42 passengers, five crew members and a ground engineer.
"There is no survivor," a senior government official at the Interior Ministry said.
"All those on board the plane were killed," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release details about the crash to the media.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said at team had been dispatched to help identify the bodies through DNA tests. Authorities have released names of passengers — among them Junaid Jamshed, a famous singer-turned-Islamic-preacher.
Azam Sehgal, PIA's chairman, said the pilot of plane told the control tower 4:09 p.m. that an engine had developed a technical fault and moments later he made a "mayday call," shortly before the plane disappeared.
Sehgal said the plane was fit to fly but that it was unclear what caused the crash.
Pervez George, the spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, told The Associated Press that a team of experts would determine the cause after retrieving the plane's black box recorder.
TV footage showed debris from the plane and a massive fire at the site of the crash. The footage showed local villagers collecting the remains of the passengers and covering the bodies with cloths.
In a statement, the military said that 40 bodies had been retrieved.
Several bodies were later transported to the Ayub Medical Complex, where mourning relatives began arriving to receive the remains.
Among such mourners was tearful Ghulam Rasool Khan, 24, who said his brother Umair Khan was on board the plane.
Ghulam asked police to allow him to identify his brother's body. However, police officer Iqbal Khan told him there was no point in going to the mortuary as, "there is nothing left which you can recognize."
Khan said he had heard that the plane was not fit to fly. "It is a murder and I want to know who killed my brother," he said.
Altaf Hussain, a rescue worker who transported the remains of passengers in an ambulance, told the AP that the crash site smelled of burnt flesh and oil and that body parts were scattered everywhere.
"We collected the burned bones of the ill-fated passengers and wrapped them in cloth," he said.
Ambulance driver Duray Hussain said the remains of the passengers were "beyond recognition."
One official, Farman Ghori, was crying outside the hospital, saying he saw the faces of two toddlers among the remains. "Oh God, I never saw such a tragedy," Ghori said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over the crash.
In a statement, he said "the entire nation is deeply saddened over today's unfortunate crash and shares the grief of the families who lost their dear ones."
Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan. About 150 people were killed in a crash in the hills of Islamabad in 2010. In 2015, a military helicopter carrying several diplomats also crashed in the country's north, killing eight people. A private plane also crashed near Islamabad due to bad weather in 2012, killing all 127 people on board.