A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crashed near the garrison town of Abbottabad on Wednesday with 48 people on board, apparently killing all of them, officials said.
Well-known singer-turned-preacher Junaid Jamshed, his wife, members of his family and four foreigners were among the passengers of the ill-fated flight PK661, PIA officials and media reports said.
The ATR-42 twin-engine turboprop aircraft was flying from Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to the capital Islamabad when it crashed at a spot 75 km from Islamabad, police officials said.
PIA spokesman Danyal Gilani said the plane lost contact with ground control after 4.30 pm local time and then disappeared from radars. “A PIA aircraft ATR-42 crashed near Havelian at 1642 hours, 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer were on board,” he said.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George said rescue teams had been dispatched to the site. “I don’t think there is any chance of finding any survivors,” he told AP.
PIA said the crash occurred because of a technical failure and ruled out suggestions of sabotage or terrorism.
Witnesses were quoted by Reuters as saying that many bodies were burned beyond recognition. The interior ministry dispatched a team with experts on identifying bodies through DNA tests.
Footage on television showed a huge fire at the site of the crash near Saddha Batolni village, with wreckage spread over a large part of a hillock. Villagers were seen standing near the site.
Troops despatched by the Pakistan Army for rescue efforts recovered 21 bodies that were moved to a hospital in Abbottabad.
Pakistan’s last major air disaster was in 2015, when a military helicopter crashed in a northern valley, killing eight people, including the Norwegian, Philippine and Indonesian envoys and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.
The deadliest crash was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board. An official report blamed the accident on a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere.
(With inputs from agencies)