New Delhi: An Air India Express flight from Dubai carrying 191 people, including crew members, skidded off the runway at the Kozhikode airport while landing on Friday. On Saturday, the government announced that the flight’s black box had been recovered and investigations into what caused the crash were underway.
At least 18 people have lost their lives and 149 are under treatment at various hospitals of Malappuram and Kozhikode districts, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media after a high-level meeting held at the district in which state governor Arif Mohammed Khan also participated.
Those killed include former Indian Air Force test pilot Captain D.V. Sathe and his co-pilot First Officer Akhilesh Kumar. Captain Sathe was a decorated former wing commander of the IAF and an alumnus of the National Defence Academy. Fourteen people killed were adults and four were children.
The flight – IX 1344 – landed at the airport at around 7:40 pm. Reports say the flight, part of the Vande Bharat mission, skidded off the runway due to heavy rain and split into two upon falling some 40 metres – the Kozhikode airport is a tabletop airport much like the one in Mangaluru, where a plane crash in 2010 killed all but eight passengers.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the plane fell into a valley and broke in two. Visuals on TV channels showed ambulances rushing into the airport and injured passengers being carried away on stretchers.
The black box of the flight that could throw light on how it overshot the runway and crashed has been recovered.
Hours after the AIE flight fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two portions on Friday night, investigations into the cause of the mishap are underway with top officials of the airlines and aviation regulator DGCA rushing here.
As authorities launched investigations into the crash that also left scores injured, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri also arrived there to take stock of the situation and implementation of the relief measures. “Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the ill-fated aircraft have been retrieved. AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau) is conducting investigations,” Puri tweeted.
The minister said he would hold consultations “with senior civil aviation officials & professionals”, adding reasons for the mishap were being investigated.
At midnight, Puri said rescue operations were complete.
Everyone has now been rescued from the aircraft.
Rescue operations are now complete.
Injured being treated at various city hospitals.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 7, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his condolences to those affected in the accident. Modi said he had spoken with Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan as well.
Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM @vijayanpinarayi Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 7, 2020
President Ram Nath Kovind too expressed his distress at the accident.
Deeply distressed to hear about the tragic plane crash of Air India Express flight at Kozhikode, Kerala. Spoke to @KeralaGovernor Shri Arif Mohammed Khan and inquired about the situation. Thoughts and prayers with affected passengers, crew members and their families.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) August 7, 2020
According to The Hindu, a 2011 Union civil aviation ministry report had flagged safety concerns at the Kozhikode airport. The report said the airport was unsafe for flight operations because of inadequate safety area along the runway and at the end of the runway to safeguard against planes skidding off (which is exactly what happened in this situation).
The Kerala CM had deputed state minister A.C. Moideen to coordinate the rescue operations. An IG of police had also been deputed to oversee the rescue operations.
The Kerala government has announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of all those who lost their lives when an Air India flight skidded off the runway at Kozhikode airport.
“The state government has decided to provide a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of those who have lost their lives. The medical expenses of those under treatment will be taken over by the state government,” Vijayan said.
Earlier on Friday, dozens of people were feared dead in Idukki district after monsoon floods triggered a landslide.
(With inputs from PTI)