Indian plane crash:
Investigators scour wreckage
*All 158 bodies recovered
*Survivors reveal nightmare:
INDIA: Investigators Sunday sifted through the charred wreckage of an
Indian passenger plane that overshot the runway and plunged into a
ravine, killing 158 people on board.
The Air India Express Boeing 737-800, carrying 160 passengers and six
crew on a flight from Dubai, careered off the “table-top” runway at
Bajpe airport on Saturday and ploughed into a forested gorge, bursting
Some of the eight people who survived the crash told how they had
escaped death as the fuselage broke into pieces and filled with fire and
thick choking smoke.
“A big team of experts has arrived for the operation,” Airport
Director P.K. Thomas told AFP at the scene of the disaster, about 20
kilometres (12 miles) from the southwest coastal city of Mangalore.
Officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said
the “black box” digital data recorder that should shed light on the
cause of the disaster had not yet been found. “We should certainly get
it today,” a DGCA source said on condition he was not named, adding they
were also still searching for the cockpit voice recorder.
The probe into the crash resumed at first light on Sunday with the
wreckage area cordoned off. Immediately after the accident, crowds of
local residents had streamed to the site to help rescue victims.
About 25 investigators used mechanical metal-cutters to start their
examination of the plane’s remains, while hired labourers cleaned up
debris scattered widely across the muddy slopes.
“All 158 bodies have been recovered but only 72 have been
identified,” rescue coordinator Yogendra Tripathi told AFP Sunday
morning. “We will carry out DNA tests on the remaining bodies beginning
The few survivors of India’s worst aviation disaster in 14 years
described hearing a loud thud shortly after touchdown.
Officials said the landing conditions were fair with good visibility
and reported there had been no distress call from the cockpit.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who flew to the crash site,
said eight passengers had survived.
It was the country’s deadliest crash since 1996 when two passenger
planes collided in mid-air near New Delhi with the loss of all 349 on
board both flights.
One survivor, Umer Farooq, spoke to reporters from his hospital bed
where he was being treated for burns to his arms, legs and face. “The
plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled
with smoke,” he said.
“I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out.”
Television images from the immediate aftermath of the crash showed
smoke billowing from the fuselage as emergency crews, who struggled down
steep, wooded slopes to reach the aircraft, sought to douse the fire
“The preliminary observation is that the aircraft touched down and
did not contain itself within the runway space,” Minister Patel said.
He described the chief pilot, a Serbian national, as a “very
experienced” flier who had logged 10,000 hours of flying time.
Stressing that it was too early to determine the precise cause of the
crash, Patel noted that the sanded safety area surrounding the runway in
the event of an overshoot was shorter than at some airports.
“It does not have much of a spillover area and in this case
apparently it had not been able to stop the plane,” he said.
Air India Express is a budget airline operated as a subsidiary by the
Many of the passengers were Indian migrant workers returning from
jobs in the Gulf to visit their families.