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Pakistan mourns 47 killed in plane crash, DNA tests to identify victims

world Updated: Dec 08, 2016 15:20 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
Pakistan International Airlines

Pakistani investigators scan the wreckage of the crashed PIA passenger plane flight PK661 at the crash site in Abbottabad district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on December 8, 2016. The aircraft carrying 47 people issued a Mayday call before losing radar contact and crashing into a hillside, killing everyone on board. (AFP)

Pakistan on Thursday mourned the 47 people killed when an ATR aircraft of the national carrier crashed in the country’s north, with the airline’s management attributing the accident to a technical fault.

The focus shifted to identifying the bodies of those who were on the ill-fated Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK661 from Chitral to Islamabad that crashed near Havelian in Abbottabad district on Wednesday.

Most of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition and will be identified through DNA testing, government officials said. Military helicopters ferried the bodies from the garrison town of Abbottabad to Islamabad.

Officials had put the death toll at 48 on Wednesday but the figure was subsequently revised.

The local media focused its attention on singer-turned-preacher Junaid Jamshed, who was killed along with his wife in the crash. His songs with the band Vital Signs and subsequent religious shows had made him a national icon.

After making a mark as one of Pakistan’s first pop sensations, Jamshed joined the Tablighi Jamaat, a religious entity that works on converting non-Muslims to Islam, in the mid-1990s.

Pakistanis search for victims around the wreckage of the crashed PIA passenger plane flight PK661 in Abbottabad district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on December 7, 2016. (AFP)

Federal minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry told reporters that military helicopters would ferry the bodies from Abottabad to Islamabad, where DNA tests would be conducted at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences so that the victims could be identified and their remains handed over to their next of kin.

Officials confirmed that not even one body had been found intact. Rescuers, including hundreds of villagers, pulled charred and smoking remains from the wreckage of the aircraft overnight.

Parts of the aircraft were found hundreds of metres away from the site of the crash in Abbottabad district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Six victims were identified through fingerprints, according to Ali Baz, an official at the Ayub Medical Complex in Abbottabad.

PIA chairman Azam Saigol said the nine-year-old ATR twin-engine turboprop plane was deemed to be “technically sound” when it last underwent a detailed inspection in October. The captain had flown more than 12,000 hours, he said.

Relatives grieve as they wait for word on the collection of remains of victims of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash at PIMS Hospital in Islamabad on December 8, 2016. (Reuters)

“Our focus now is to retrieve all the bodies,” he said, vowing a full investigation into the crash of flight PK661.

The pilot of the PIA flight contacted ground control after one engine failed soon after the ATR-42 aircraft took from Chitral. The pilot also issued a Mayday call shortly before it slammed into a hillside, officials told the media.

Three foreigners were among the dead, officials said. Austria’s foreign ministry confirmed two of its nationals were killed and Chinese state media reported one of its nationals was among the victims.