Karachi plane crash: Black box recovered, says airline

Worst air disaster in Pakistan since 2012 killed at least 97 passengers and crew members.

Rescue workers gather at the site of a passenger plane crash in a residential area near an airport in Karachi
Rescue workers gather at the site of the passenger plane crash in Karachi [Akhtar Soomr/[Reuters]

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the site of a plane crash that killed at least 97 passengers and crew members in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 was flying from Lahore to Karachi when it went down around 09:45 GMT on Friday. The Airbus A320, which had 99 people aboard, crashed into a crowded residential district of the southern city after twice trying to land at the airport.

“The black box had been found late yesterday, we are handing it over to the inquiry board,” PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan said on Saturday, clarifying both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were located.

Health ministry spokeswoman Meeran Yousuf told Al Jazeera by telephone that 66 bodies were kept at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi’s largest government hospital, and 31 at Civil Hospital Karachi, another leading state-run hospital. 

Two male passengers survived the crash.

“After it hit and I regained consciousness, I saw fire everywhere and no one was visible,” passenger Mohammad Zubair, 24, said from his hospital bed in a video clip circulated on social media.

“The cries were everywhere and everybody was trying to survive. I undid my seat belt and I saw some light and tried to walk towards it. Then I jumped out.”

Zubair suffered burns but was in a stable condition, a health ministry official said. The airline named the other survivor as the president of the Bank of Punjab, Zafar Masud.

Dozens killed in Pakistan passenger plane crash (3:34)

Seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a respected aviation monitoring website.

“Our plane [an Airbus] A320 which was coming from Lahore to Karachi was on final approach,” said PIA chief Arshad Malik in a video message released after the crash.

“The last words we heard from our pilot were that there is a technical problem and he was told on final approach that he has both runways available to him to land on. But the pilot decided that he wanted to go around.”

The plane then rapidly lost altitude and crashed short of the runway into the Model Colony neighbourhood, witnesses told local media.

Dense plumes of black smoke rose above houses in the narrow streets of the neighbourhood, with television footage showing several buildings crushed from the impact of the aircraft.

Parts of the plane, including the emergency exit door, were strewn in the streets.

Airbus said the jet first flew in 2004 and was fitted with engines built by CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.

Worst air disaster in years

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan announced soon after the crash that there would be an inquiry,

The country only last week resumed domestic flights it had suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many people travelling for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

This year’s holiday is expected to fall on Sunday or Monday in the country, subject to the sighting of the moon.

Friday’s crash is the worst air disaster in Pakistan since 2012, when a Bhoja Air passenger aircraft, a Boeing 737, crashed in the capital, Islamabad, killing 127 people.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies