A technician from Indian airline SpiceJet was killed in Kolkata early Wednesday morning after flaps covering the aircraft’s main landing gear closed on him during maintenance.
Rohit Pandey, 22, was performing maintenance work on the aircraft at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport when a hydraulic door “inadvertently” closed on him, trapping his body. Ground staff found Pandey’s body hanging from the belly of the 90-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft at 1:45AM, with his head and left arm stuck inside the vehicle while the rest of his body dangled.
A doctor was called immediately after the accident was reported, and Pandey was declared dead shortly after the doors were opened.
“The body could not be pulled out and the doors had to be cut by mechanics,” said Kaushik Bhattacharya, director of the Kolkata airport. “We don’t know for how many minutes he was hanging there before being spotted.”
Police, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the airline launched investigations into the incident.
SpiceJet said in a statement it was “extremely saddened” by the news and “the entire SpiceJet family stands together in grief in this unfortunate incident.” Officials said Pandey should have been working with a supervisor and assistant, but no one from the airline could verify if he had been working alone or with a team before the accident. SpiceJet officials also refused to confirm the nature of Pandey’s maintenance work.
“An inquiry is on and we will be able to share further details only after it is over,” the airline’s official told Indian newspaper The Times of India.
Pandey’s relatives claimed “negligence” on part of the airline, and said Pandey was a resident of Kandivali in Mumbai. He was posted in Kolkata just three months prior and was his family’s sole provider. In his death, he left behind his two younger sisters and a widowed mother.
“He was just a young trainee. Where were his supervisors?” asked Chandravati Devi, Pandey’s aunt. “We have been told he was spotted several minutes after the accident and then it took several more minutes to bring him down from the door flaps. If this is not negligence, what is?”
SpiceJet holds a reliable safety record according to AirlineRatings.com, which evaluates airline security worldwide. The website gave SpiceJet a rating of 7/7 on account of its compliance with international safety laws and a fatality-free record.
However, the freak accident comes amid a difficult few weeks for the airline, when a SpiceJet aircraft overshot the runway at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai last week. No injuries were reported from the incident.
Fox News' Morgan Cheung contributed to this report.