152 KILLED IN AIR DIS­AS­TER

« Two Amer­i­cans among the vic­tims of crash as plane tried to land in monsoon con­di­tions

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Shaiq Hus­sain

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

Mo­ham­mad Sa­j­jad As­so­Ci­ATeD PRess

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.

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