158 Killed in mangalore crash

Crash

As darkness descended over the wooded hill on which Mangalore's Bajpe airport sits, search teams rummaging through the twisted metal wreckage called it a day, suspending until Sunday morning their hunt for the cockpit voice recorder that could reveal the secret of the last catastrophic seconds of Air India Express flight IX 812.

More than 12 hours after the Boeing 737-800 coming in to land from Dubai overshot the runway and crashed into the wooded valley beyond, the smell of death hung low over the charred trees.

By the evening, bodies of all 158 dead had been pulled out of the wreckage, but only 77 could be identified, said Karnataka Environment Minister J Krishna Palemar, who was coordinating operations at the crash site.

Several passengers were found still strapped in their seats, burnt beyond recognition. Most bodies have been kept at the Government Wentlock Hospital, where the process of identification through DNA tests will begin on Sunday, the Minister said.

Eight of the 166 people on board the aircraft survived the disaster, the first in Indian aviation since 2000, and the worst since the mid-air crash over Charkhi Dadri outside Delhi in 1996.

The two-and-a-half-year-old aircraft missed the touchdown area of the 'tabletop' runway at Bajpe airport, barreled into a concrete antenna used as a landing aid, and careened into the valley to the left of the runway. The fuselage broke into two, and the aircraft burst into flames.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said one of the passengers had escaped unhurt, three had survived with major injuries, and four with minor ones. There were 105 men, 32 women, 19 children and four infants on board, besides a six-member crew. Most of the passengers were from Kerala. No one from the crew survived.

The aircraft was being flown by Capt Zlatko Glusica, a 55-year-old British citizen of Serbian origin, with 10,000 hours of flying experience. Commander Glusica had made 26 earlier landings at the airport. His co-pilot, Capt H S Ahluwalia, had flown 3,750 hours, and was making his 67th landing in Mangalore. The two pilots had landed here together on May 17.

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