Transportation

Pakistan airline chairman: Pilot lost control of engine, made ‘mayday call’ before crash

Pakistan army troops and rescue workers collect remains of victims at the site of a plane crash, in a village near the town of Havelian, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the capital, Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.

Pakistan army troops and rescue workers collect remains of victims at the site of a plane crash, in a village near the town of Havelian, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the capital, Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.  (AP)

The pilot of the ill-fated Pakistan International Airlines plane that crashed into a mountain on Wednesday killing everyone on board reportedly lost control of one of the engines, the airline chairman said.

Azam Sehgal, PIA’s chairman, told reporters that the pilot for flight PK661 told the control tower at 4:09 p.m. local time that an engine had developed a technical fault and moments later made a “mayday call” shortly before the plane disappeared.

“We were confident that the plane could land with one working engine,” he said, adding: “I think that there was no technical error or human error… obviously there will be a proper investigation.”

The small twin-propeller aircraft was enroute from Chitral to the capital when it crashed near the town of Havelian, about 45 miles northwest of Islamabad. The airline said there were 48 people aboard the plane – 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer.

“There are no survivors, no one has survived,” Sehgal said.

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It was not immediately clear what may have caused the crash.

In a statement, the military said that 40 bodies had been retrieved.

Pervez George, the spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, told The Associated Press that a team of experts would determine the cause after retrieving the plane's black box recorder.

TV footage showed debris from the plane and a massive fire at the site of the crash. The footage showed local villagers collecting the remains of the passengers and covering the bodies with cloths.

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A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said at team had been dispatched to help identify the bodies through DNA tests. Authorities have released names of passengers — among them Junaid Jamshed, a famous singer-turned-Islamic-preacher.

Among such mourners was tearful Ghulam Rasool Khan, 24, who said his brother Umair Khan was on board the plane.

Ghulam asked police to allow him to identify his brother's body. However, police officer Iqbal Khan told him there was no point in going to the mortuary as, "there is nothing left which you can recognize."

Khan said he had heard that the plane was not fit to fly. "It is a murder and I want to know who killed my brother," he said.

Altaf Hussain, a rescue worker who transported the remains of passengers in an ambulance, told the AP that the crash site smelled of burnt flesh and oil and that body parts were scattered everywhere.

"We collected the burned bones of the ill-fated passengers and wrapped them in cloth," he said.

Ambulance driver Duray Hussain said the remains of the passengers were "beyond recognition."

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said at team had been dispatched to help identify the bodies through DNA tests. Authorities have released names of passengers — among them Junaid Jamshed, a famous singer-turned-Islamic-preacher.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over the crash.

In a statement, he said "the entire nation is deeply saddened over today's unfortunate crash and shares the grief of the families who lost their dear ones."

Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan. About 150 people were killed in a crash in the hills of Islamabad in 2010. In 2015, a military helicopter carrying several diplomats also crashed in the country's north, killing eight people. A private plane also crashed near Islamabad due to bad weather in 2012, killing all 127 people on board.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.