Flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered from the wreckage of an Indian passenger aircraft that crashed in the southern state of Kerala.
The Air India Express plane, which was repatriating Indians from Dubai because of the Covid-19 pandemic, overshot the runway of the Calicut international airport in heavy rain near the city of Kozhikode, also known as Calicut.
The two-year-old Boeing 737-800 was carrying 174 adult passengers and 10 infants. Two pilots and four cabin crew were also on board.
On Saturday, the number of dead rose to 18, with 16 people severely injured. Air India said that both pilots were dead but that the four cabin crew were safe.
In a telephone interview from his hospital bed, Renjith Panangad, a plumber who was returning home for the first time in three years after losing his job at a construction company in Dubai, said the plane swayed before the crash and everything went dark.
He said he followed other passengers who crawled along the fuselage and through the emergency exit.
“A lot of passengers were bleeding,” said Panangad, who escaped with minor injuries. “I still can’t comprehend what happened. As I am trying to recall what happened, my body is shivering.”
He said the pilot made a regular announcement before landing, and moments after the plane hit the runway, it nosedived.
“There was a big noise during the impact and people started screaming,” he said.
As the rain stopped on Saturday morning, aviation officials said searchers had recovered the “black boxes” as the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau started work on the wreckage. Air India Express said its teams also reached Calicut to support and assist families of the victims.
The wreckage of the plane was resting below a flat hilltop, its nose crashed through a wall. The fuselage was split in two,cables dangled and luggage and seats were strewn around.
A similar tragedy was narrowly avoided at the same airport a year ago when an Air India Express flight suffered a tail strike on landing. None of the 180 passengers on that flight was injured.
India’s civil aviation minister, Hardeep S Puri, said the flight “overshot the runway in rainy conditions and went down” the slope, breaking into two pieces.
The aviation regulator said it was too early to tell whether the accident was a result of technical or human error.
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