Leading South Indian actress Soundarya was among four people killed when the aircraft carrying them to Andhra Pradesh to campaign for the BJP crashed minutes after it took off from Jakkur airfield near Bangalore on Saturday.
Soundarya’s producer-brother Amarnath, BJP worker Ramesh Kadam and pilot Joy Phillips were the others who died.
Eyewitnesses said seconds after the single-engine four-seater Cessna 180 cleared the runway and attained a height of 100 ft, it banked to the left and crashed into the campus of the University of Agricultural University. The aircraft burst into flames and the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The plane is owned by Bangalore's Agni Aerosports and Adventure Academy which had bought it from a company in Pondicherry last year. Captain Arvind Sharma of the Academy told HT that the BJP had not chartered his plane but he lent the plane for "dropping'' off the actress to Hyderabad on a request from a woman friend who runs a flying club there.
|The wreckage of the aircraft carrying four passengers lies in an open field opposite the Jakkur airfield in Bangalore on Saturday, April 17, 2004.
It isn’t clear how the EC will view such friendly lifts in aircraft but Sharma said: "It's my plane and I can drop anyone anywhere.''
Sharma claimed that the Cessna's airworthiness certificate was valid till June. He said the road near the airstrip had four dhabas and the food attracted a lot of birds. He said the pilot might have seen some birds in the sky and tried to take a turn to avoid them and the turn at the low height might have led to the crash. Asked how old the aircraft was, all he could say was that the plane was first registered in 1991.
The DGCA has ordered a probe.
The plane which crashed on Saturday was built in 1955 and had flown over 7,000 hours. It was imported in 1991. Agni Aerosports, which was operating it, purchased it last year
Was it fit to fly?
This is fourth Cessna crash in past 8 days worldwide. Still aircraft maintenance in India is an area of concern. In fact, on Saturday, the PM’s flight to Nagpur was delayed after his IAF plane developed a snag.