ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — One of the survivors of a passenger plane crash in Karachi that killed dozens described the chaotic scenes in the disaster’s aftermath and his miraculous escape from the wreckage.
“All I could see was fire. I couldn’t see any people – just hear their screams” Muhammad Zubair told a local television channel. Zubair was one of two survivors, all 97 other people on board were killed.
The Pakistan International Airlines crash Friday is just the latest deadly incident for the national carrier that has long had a poor safety record. The airline’s CEO said the cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but two airline officials said mechanical failure related to the landing gear brought down the plane. A government investigation into the incident was launched Friday.
The Airbus A320, which had 99 people aboard, struck a residential neighborhood bordering the Karachi airport damaging over 20 homes.
In the moments before the crash, the pilot told air traffic control there was a problem, the airline’s CEO Arshad Malik said. The pilot said “‘there is an issue’ and that is where communication ends and the crash happens,” Malik told local reporters late Friday.
Malik said until the black box or flight recorder can be recovered, it’s too early to determine the cause of the crash.
But two airline officials briefed on the incident said the plane was brought down by mechanical failure associated with the landing gear.
As the pilot first attempted to land, the landing gear failed, the officials said. And then when the pilot attempted an emergency landing, the maneuver damaged a fuel tank and sent the plane careering into the nearby neighborhood, according to one of the officials.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
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Witnesses said the airliner appeared to attempt to land two or three times before it crashed in the Model Colony neighborhood, the Associated Press reported.
The Pakistani Army is leading search and rescue efforts and reported the bodies of all the victims were recovered from the crash site Saturday.
The crash occurred during a busy travel period in Pakistan. Restrictions on domestic flights had just been lifted last weekend with the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions. And Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan falls this weekend. The holiday is traditionally celebrated by visiting relatives.
Pakistan International Airlines has had a poor safety record for years. In 2016, a PIA domestic flight traveling from Chitral to Islamabad crashed, killing all 48 passengers and crew members aboard. Last year, a PIA flight landing at a small airport in the country’s north crashed after skidding off the runway. All passengers survived, but the plane was severely damaged. And one of the deadliest PIA crashes occurred in 1992 in Nepal killing all 167 people on board.
Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad and Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.
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