KARACHI: As the team of Airbus experts probing the May 22 plane crash returned to France along with the aircraft’s black box after spending a week in Karachi, the death toll in the tragedy rose to 98 on Monday when a teenage girl lost her battle with the burn injuries she suffered while working in a house near the airport.
Naheeda Khaskheli, 13, has become the first casualty on the ground.
Except for two survivors, 97 passengers and crew of the ill-fated Pakistan International Airlines aircraft were killed when the plane crashed into houses in Model Colony’s Jinnah Garden area.
Naheeda worked as a domestic house help along with her two sisters — 20-year-old Aziza and 18-year-old Mahira — in Model Colony. They were busy doing their regular duties of cleaning a house when the airliner crashed, leaving the girls badly injured.
Aziza and Mahira had over 70 per cent burns and Naheeda 59pc. All three girls had been under treatment at the burns ward of Karachi’s Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi.
Airbus team reaches Paris after week-long stay in Karachi
The body was shifted to her home in Jam Kando Village, Malir. According to her maternal uncle, Mohammad Essa, a few government officials visited his nieces in the hospital and promised help, but the promise had not been fulfilled so far.
A special flight (AIB-1889) carrying the 11 French investigators belonging to Airbus, the French air safety body, engine manufacturers Safran Aircraft Engines and CFM International left Karachi airport on Monday morning and landed at Paris–Le Bourget Airport in the evening.
They brought with them the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the crashed A320 aircraft to France, where the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) will begin decoding them on Tuesday (today).
The French officials will open and download information from the FDR and CVR if the recording chips are intact inside their crash-resistant shells.
According to Reuters, initial reports suggested the aircraft scraped its engines along the runway during its first attempt to land following what appeared to be an unstable approach, arriving steep and fast.
It said investigators would analyse the cockpit data to try to understand whether damage to the engines from the first landing attempt caused them to cut out before the second attempt, leaving the aeroplane unable to make it to the airport perimeter.
Officials said a member of the AAIB had accompanied the Airbus team to France and the findings of French investigators would be shared with the AAIB first.
The Airbus team had arrived in Karachi on May 26 and spent a week in providing what the company called ‘technical assistance’ to Pakistani investigators belonging to the Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board (AAIB).
Meanwhile, 10 bodies of the plane crash victims remain unidentified.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said in a statement on Monday that bodies of 87 victims had been identified and handed over to their relatives.
He said four bodies were lying in the Chhipa mortuary and six with the Edhi Foundation.
He said as many as 48 bodies were identified through DNA testing.
The Sindh Forensic DNA and Serology Laboratory (SFDL) at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi, reported on Monday that it had completed the DNA-based identification of the air crash victims.
“A few cases where relatives have not contacted us are pending and will be deciphered after availability of reference samples,” said a statement.
The centre’s director, Dr Iqbal Chaudhry, said: “As many as 69 samples have been received from the victims’ families and 70 samples have been received from police so far. State of the art machines and expertise were employed to complete this huge work in a record time of eight days with 100 per cent accuracy.”
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2020