152 KILLED IN AIR DISASTER
« Two Americans among the victims of crash as plane tried to land in monsoon conditions
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani passenger plane crashed into the hills surrounding Islamabad on Wednesday morning, and officials said all 152 people on board — including two Americans — were killed.
The Airbus A321, operated by Airblue, a private aviation service, was arriving from Karachi and trying to land in Islamabad in a heavy monsoon downpour. It crashed in the nearby Margalla hills.
Television footage of the fiery crash site showed fog and smoke rising from the mountains. Burning wreckage of the fuselage, wings and engines was scattered across the forest floor, and twisted metal parts hung from trees.
Although there were initial re- ports of five injured survivors being taken for medical treatment, the chairman of Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority, Imtiaz Inayat Ali, later said that all 146 passengers and six crew members were killed.
Richard Snelsire, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy here, said two Americans were among the dead. Their names were not released, and no additional information about them was available.
The plane departed Karachi at 7:50 a.m. for the two-hour flight to Benazir Bhutto International Airport in the capital.
“It is not yet clear what is the actual cause of the plane crash,” Pervez George, a civil aviation authority spokesman, said in an interview, but he speculated that bad weather played a part.
He said the control tower lost contact with the plane as it was about to land. “We got the news later that it had crashed in the Margalla hills.”
Islamabad police chief Bin Yamin said rescue teams from the police department, army and other organiza- tions rushed to the crash site, which was difficult to access because of thickly wooded forest in the area. Television footage showed rescuers walking single-file up a mountain trail.
A huge explosion was heard after the crash, with fire spreading fast in the nearby hills covered by trees, Yamin said.
Smoke could be seen rising from the crash site.
Yamin said body parts were dispersed throughout the area. Rescue teams had most of the remains within several hours of the crash, he said.
“We will provide the details about the passengers when we get them, but at the moment all we could say is that it’s an unfortunate incident and a big tragedy,” Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.
A witness, Shahid Ameen, who was in a nearby residential area at the time of crash, said that he saw the plane with a low flight pattern. He said it looked “as if the plane had lost balance before I saw it coming down.”
ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
A helicopter picks up victims from the site of a plane crash near Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday. Officials said all 152 people on board were killed as the plane crashed into the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital.