A huge aircraft on fire, a thick cloud of smoke, smell of charred human flesh — the scene at the wreckage of the Air India Express flight that crashed in Mangalore on Saturday, killing 158 people on board, was ominous. But that did not deter local youths from helping rescue workers bring the flames under control and save the lives of the injured.
Youngsters from nearby Kenjar and Adthyadi villages were the first to rush to the spot, within minutes of the crash.
One of them, Muzaffer, mobilised a group of 20 youths to initiate rescue operations.
The plane broke into two and smoke billowed from the main fuselage engulfing the entire area. The plane was almost completely burnt with only its tail visible.
The youths had no safety equipment, yet they started trying to douse the fire. Pouring rains helped check the spread of fire, but increased the smoke.
By the time the fire tenders arrived, a number of other local boys had joined the rescue efforts. They helped recover more than 150 bodies from the debris.
When news of the tragedy spread through local and national news channels, relatives and friends of the passengers who perished, also rushed to the wreckage site.
Police had to cordon off the site from all sides as pouring rain and chaotic movement of people were hampering rescue measures and delaying recovery of bodies.The locality reverberated with sirens of ambulances and fire tenders as rescue operations continued.
“The location of crashed aircraft was not easily accessible,” said a senior official who did not want to be named.
The plane crashed around 6.30 a.m. By the evening, emotions were running high at the state-run Wenlock Hospital in Mangalore, where the charred bodies had been wheeled in throughout the day. Relatives of the dead and injured were wailing, screaming and collapsing at the sight of their near and dear ones.
Nine passengers, including some who had jumped off the plane, survived and were taken to the hospital but one died on the way.
Many bodies are probably entangled in the bushes or have fallen into the ravine, Additional Superintendent of Police Ramesh Kumar said.