A Pakistan International Airlines flight crashed near Abbottabad after pilots reported engine trouble. Even though only 36 bodies have been recovered thus far, it is believed that all 48 passengers including Junaid Jamshed a former pop singer turned preacher died in the fiery crash. The plane, with hull number ATR-42 operating as PK-661, crashed in a hilly area near Havelian between Majab and Piplian. Emergency responders on site report “All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered.” People who were there at the site of the crash report that the plane itself was on fire before it crashed.
A spokesman for the airline said there were 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer aboard the plane. Notable people on the plane included Junaid Jamshed, his wife and the Deputy Commissioner Chitral Osama Warraich. While the exact cause of the crash is not yet known, a spokesman for the airline tweeted, “PIA’s ATR-42 aircraft operating as PK-661, carrying around 40 persons lost its contact with the control tower on its way from Chitral to Islamabad a short while ago,” PIA Spokesman Daniyal Gilani tweeted. “All resources are being mobilised to locate the aircraft.”
“The priority is to recover bodies. Then will come the recovery of the parts of the aircraft,” a rescue team member was quoted as saying. To that end, six helicopters and multiple ground rescue teams have been dispatched to the crash site. Of course, because the site is in a mountainous region it is very difficult to conduct a normal search and rescue operation.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Pakistan’s airlines. In 2012, a Bhoja Airline plane crashed near Islamabad. The Boeing 737 carrying 121 passengers as well as six crew members went down with no survivors. In 2010, an Airbus a321 passenger jet operated by Airblue, a private airline, also crashed near Islamabad. This incident was the single greatest aviation related loss of life in Pakistan’s recent history. There were 146 passengers and six crew members onboard, there were no survivors. These incidents don’t happen frequently enough to constitute a trend but the rate of aviation related deaths cannot be ignored. Whether Pakistan has to instigate new regulations or more training for pilots, something definitely needs to be done.