Pakistan plane crash survivor tells of ‘violent jolts’ moments before flight went down

One of only two survivors of the Pakistan plane crash has described how he felt two “violent jolts” just moments before the flight went down.

Flight PK 8303 went down in the city of Karachi on Friday as the Airbus A320 plane, carrying 91 passengers and eight crew, was approaching Jinnah International Airport.

A total of 97 people were killed and only 19 bodies have been identified so far as most victims were badly burned, provincial health department spokeswoman Meeran Yousaf said.

Passenger Mohammed Zubair, a mechanical engineer, said the pilot had warned that the landing in Karachi would be “troublesome” after the plane jolted violently twice, which he initially believed was turbulence.

In a telephone interview from his hopsital bed, Mr Zubair said the pilot’s words were the last thing he remembered until he woke up in a scene of chaos.

Mr Zubair recalled: “I saw so much smoke and fire. I heard people crying, children crying.”

He crawled his way out of the smoke and rubble, and was eventually pulled from the ground and rushed into an ambulance, he added.

The plane crashed into a crowded neighbourhood on the edge of the airport in the poor and densely populated area of the city known as Model Colony.

Three people on the ground were reportedly injured in the crash and at least five houses were destroyed, and rescue crews were still sifting through the rubble on Saturday.

The Pakistan International Airlines flight was carrying people, mostly families, returning home for Eid al-Fitr – a major holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The country had been under a nationwide lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, and when flights resumed, every other seat was left empty to adhere to social distancing rules.

Science minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry said that between the coronavirus outbreak and the plane crash, this year had been a “catastrophe”.

“What is most unfortunate and sad is whole families have died, whole families who were travelling together for the Eid holiday,” he said.

Local news reports and social media said Zara Abid, a 28-year-old actress and award-winning model, was among those killed.

A senior banker, his wife and three young children were also reportedly killed.

The only other survivor of the crash was Zafar Masood, a bank executive.

A transmission of the pilot’s final exchange with air traffic control indicated that he had failed to land and was circling to make another attempt.

“We are proceeding direct, sir – we have lost engine,” the pilot said.

“Confirm your attempt on belly,” the air traffic controller said, offering a runway.

“Sir, mayday, mayday, mayday, mayday Pakistan 8303,” the pilot said before the transmission ended.

PIA chairman Arshad Malik said an independent inquiry would be held but that the aircraft was in good working order.

Documents showed the plane last received a government check in November 2019.

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