ABBOTTABAD/CHITRAL/PESHAWAR: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight en route to Islamabad from Chitral crashed into the mountains near Havelian tehsil of Abbottabad on Wednesday afternoon, killing all 47 people on board.
The dead included singer-turned-televangelist Junaid Jamshed and his wife, Chitral’s deputy commissioner Osama Ahmed Warraich, his wife and infant daughter and three foreigners.
Shahzada Farhat Aziz, a member of Chitral’s royal family, and his daughter, three employees of the Aga Khan Foundation and an official of the Hashoo Foundation were also among the dead.
•47 perish in PIA plane crash• Junaid Jamshed, Chitral DC and three foreigners among dead•Ayub Medical Complex receives 41 bodies, mostly in pieces•PIA chairman rules out fault in aircraft
According to the flight manifest, 31 men, nine women, two infants and five crew members were on board. A PIA statement said two Austrians and a Chinese were among the foreigners who perished in the crash.
It said the ATR-42 AP-BHO operating as PK-661 departed from Chitral airport at around 3.30pm and came down on the mountainside of Batolni village, some 15km from Havelian, at around 4.40pm.
Mohammad Haroon, a cab driver and resident of nearby Pipal village who witnessed the crash, told Dawn that the plane was flying at very low altitude and high-pitched noise was coming out of its engines. He said the plane circled twice on the outskirts of the Havelian city and made unsteady up and down movements before crashing into the mountainside between Batolni and Pipal villages. “There was a huge bang after the plane hit the mountainside and caught fire.”
Mr Haroon said announcements were made from mosques and people rushed to the site, but high flames did not allow them to carry out rescue work. “Later army personnel and other rescue workers arrived at the scene,” he said, adding that he saw about 25 bodies being retrieved from the wreckage of the ill-fated plane. “The bodies are burnt beyond recognition,” Mr Haroon said, adding that the debris of the plane was spread over a large area.
Dr Mannan, Deputy Medical Superintendent of the Ayub Medical Complex in Abbottabad, said that 41 bodies were brought to the hospital, mostly in pieces.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that a team of the National Database and Registration Authority had reached the hospital to identify the bodies through fingerprints.
Chitral airport manager Ubaidullah told Dawn that the control tower remained in contact with the plane for about 10 minutes after take-off. “I said goodbye to the captain when the plane crossed Lowari top.”
He said the plane had no technical fault at the time of landing and take-off and both had happened on time.
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director General retired Air Marshal Asim Suleiman told Dawn that the pilot had radioed the control tower two minutes before the crash, saying the left engine had stopped working. “Two minutes later, the control tower lost contact with the plane,” he added.
Junaid Jamshed was in Chitral for the past four weeks, along with his family, in connection with tableegh (preaching) and his last stay was at Jughoor mosque in a village. On Dec 4, he had posted four photographs on his Twitter account with some people in Denin village. “Heaven on earth Chitral. With my friends in the path of Allah. Snowcapped Tirchmir right behind us,” he tweeted.
An Airport Security Force’s woman official at the Chitral airport told Dawn that Mr Jamshed had shaken hands with all the airport staff after entering its premises and seemed to be in a jovial mood. She said Mr Jamshed had left the boarding counter saying he was going to meet his friends outside. “Upon re-entering the room, he chanted Chitral Zindabad and left for the plane,” she recalled.
The flight manifest identified the passengers as Abid Qaiser, Ahtiramul Haq, Miss Ayesha, Akbar Ali, Amina Ahmed, Atiq Muhammad, Miss Farah Naz, Farhat Aziz and his daughter
Tayyaba Aziz, Gohar Ali, Miss Gul Huran, Han Qiang (Chinese), Harald Kessl (Korean), Hassan Ali, Junaid Jamshid, Junaid Nahya (Junaid’s wife), Mehmood Atif, Mirza Gul, Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Khan, Muhammad Noughman, Takbeer, Nisarud Din, Osama Ahmed Warraich, Rani Mehreen (his wife), Salman Zainul Abideen, Samina Gul, Shamshad Begum, Taimur Arsh, Haji Nawaz, Miss Zahid Gul Parveen, Akhtar Mehmud, Amir Shoukat and Umara Khan.
Captain Shehriyar Janjua was flying the plane while his younger brother Khalid Janjua was co-pilot. The name of a trainee pilot could not be ascertained.
PIA chief rules out fault in plane
PIA chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol ruled out any fault in the ill-fated plane but at the same time was clueless about the reason behind the deadly crash, saying only investigation could determine the fact.
While acknowledging failure of an engine of the ATR-42, he said the high-powered aircraft could be flown with the other one available in such a situation. But he said he was surprised that it could not happen and dozens of passengers met the fatal end.
“When we were informed that an engine had failed, we were not worried as such and quite hopeful that things would be fine shortly through another engine,” the PIA chairman said at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. “But frankly on this particular subject we are still perplexed as to why it was not taken off on other engine. These are few questions which we believe would be answered after investigations and I can’t say anything right now.”
He said the investigation would be carried in line with the international standards which would also involve foreign bodies along with local probe teams and intelligence institutions.
“Let me tell you one thing that there was no issue with the aircraft,” said Mr Saigol. “After every 500-hour flying, every aircraft goes through air check and the same was done with this plane only last month. There was no technical issue with that and it’s absolutely notion that aircraft was faulty.”
He said the captain was a seasoned pilot with more than 12,000 hours of flying experience. He was regarded as master of ATR flying and often hired for aircraft training.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2016