Turbulence, warnings before PIA plane crash
KARACHI: When the plane jolted violently, Mohammad Zubair thought it was turbulence. Then the pilot came on the intercom to warn that the landing could be “troublesome.”
Moments later, the Pakistan International Airlines flight crashed into a crowded neighborhood near Karachi’s international airport, killing 97 people, all of whom are believed to be passengers and crew members. Zubair was one of just two surviving passengers.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said the Airbus A320 was carrying 91 passengers and eight crew members. The only other survivor of the crash was Zafar Masood, a bank executive.
In a telephone interview from his hospital bed, Zubair, a mechanical engineer, said flight PK8303 had taken off on time from the eastern city of Lahore at 1 p.m. It was a smooth, uneventful flight until the aircraft began its descent near Karachi shortly before 3 p.m.
“Suddenly the plane jerked violently, once and then again,” said Zubair. The aircraft turned and the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. They were experiencing engine trouble and the landing could be “troublesome,” the pilot said. That was the last thing Zubair remembered until he woke up in a scene of chaos.
“I saw so much smoke and fire. I heard people crying, children crying.”
He crawled his way out of the smoke and rubble, and was eventually pulled from the ground and rushed into an ambulance.
Between the coronavirus pandemic and the plane crash, this year has been a “catastrophe,” he said.
“What is most unfortunate and sad is whole families have died, whole families who were travelling together for the Eid holiday,” he told The Associated Press.
Social media and local news reports said Zara Abid, an actor and an award-winning model, was among those killed. A senior banker, his wife and three young children were also reportedly killed. Shabaz Hussein, whose mother died in the crash, told The Associated Press he identified her body at a local hospital and was waiting to take it away for burial.
The airliner plowed into the crowded Model Colony neighborhood as many of the men of of the area were gathered at nearby mosques for weekly Friday prayers, perhaps explaining why the number of injured on the ground was just eight, mostly women and children. Only three were still hospitalized, said the Sindh Health Department spokeswoman, and all the residents of the 18 homes that were damaged by the crash were accounted for.
“The men were praying at the nearby mosque, Masjid-e-Bilal, which is 100 meters from where the plane crashed,” said resident Amir Chaudhry, whose sister was injured when the airliner crashed into the neighborhood.
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 to make another attempt.
“We are proceeding direct, sir — we have lost engine,” the pilot said.
“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.
Airbus said the plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flights as of Friday. The plane had two CFM56-5B4 engines.
Airbus said it would provide technical assistance to investigators in France and Pakistan, as well as the airline and engine manufacturers. – AP