Air India Express plane crash in Kerala left 18 dead: How the tragedy unfolded

Updated: 10 August, 2020 11:12 IST | Sherlin Rajan
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    An Air India Express flight(IX-1344) from Dubai overshot the table-top runway on Friday night while landing at the international airport in Karipur, about 30 km from Kozhikode in Kerala, leaving 18 dead, 149 injured.

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    The flight that had 190 people on board, including 6 crew members, fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two portions. The pilots - 58-year-old Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe and 32-year-old Captain Akhilesh Kumar, were among the dead. The other four cabin crew members are safe, an official said.

    In picture: First responders gather around the wreckage of an Air India Express plane after it crashed.

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    Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri rushed to Kozhikode to take stock of the situation. He told reporters that Sathe, a former Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF), was one of the most experienced commanders with more than 10,000 flying hours and had landed aircraft 27 times at the Karipur airport, including this year. Meanwhile, Kumar had a total flying experience of 1,723 hours.

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    As investigators carried out the probe, an Airports Authority of India (AAI) spokesperson said runway 28 was in use and in the first landing attempt the pilot could not sight the runway and requested for runway 10. The pilot then steered the plane to runway 10 and came from the other side, according to an AAI official.

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    Citing information from the Air Traffic Controller (ATC), the spokesperson said the aircraft touched down near taxiway 'C', which is approximately 1,000 metres from the beginning of runway 10. The total length of the runway is 2,700 metres. The spokesperson also said that it was raining over the airfield and reported visibility at the time of landing was 2,000 metres.

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    Of the 149 people who are injured and are in various hospitals, 23 are in critical condition while another 23 have been discharged after initial medical assistance, an official said.

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    According to the official list released by Malappuram district collector K Gopalakrishnan, four of the deceased were children - three girls and a one-year-old boy - and seven men and an equal number of women. Two girls were aged two and the other was five.

    In picture: First responders inspect the wreckage of the plane.

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    Amid the tragedy, COVID-19 scare also surfaced with samples of two passengers who died in the mishap testing positive for the virus. Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja asked all those engaged in rescue operations to go in self-quarantine and get themselves tested.

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    Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who held a high-level meeting in which Governor Arif Mohammad Khan also participated, told reporters that all the crash victims, including the deceased, would be tested for COVID-19. The CM, along with the Governor, also visited the injured at Kozhikode Medical College hospital.

    In picture: The wreckage of the Air India Express plane.

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    The flight was part of the Centre's 'Vande Bharat' Mission to bring back Indians stranded abroad amid coronavirus pandemic.

    In picture: Security personnel stand guard near the wreckage of Air India Express plane.

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    As top officials rushed to Kozhikode for investigations, it emerged that the aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), had issued a show-cause notice to the director of Kozhikode airport on July 11 last year after it found "various critical safety lapses". The DCGA had pointed to cracks on the runway, water stagnation and excessive rubber deposits among other lapses in its show-cause notice, an official said.

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    Among the deceased passengers, eight were from Kozhikode district, six from Malappuram district and two from Palakkad district. The post mortem process has been expedited despite the COVID-19 threat, Kerala CM said.

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    The chief minister also lauded the instant response by the locals living in the vicinity of the airport and also the local authorities to this tragedy which ensured minimum loss of lives in a disaster of such large magnitude as a plane crash. The rescue operations were finished in the shortest possible time on Friday night.

    In picture: Residents of nearby areas gather near the site of the crash as officials inspect the wreckage of the aircraft.

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    The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) have been recovered at the crash site that could provide vital clues in the crash. The floorboard was cut to retrieve the CVR, a DGCA official informed.

    In picture: Officials inspect the wreckage on Saturday, a day after the crash.

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    A DGCA official said the DFDR and CVR will be taken to Delhi for further investigation by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB). The CVR keeps a recording of all the conversations that take place in a plane's cockpit and along with DFDR that has a record of flight data such as airspeed, altitude and fuel flow that can help in finding out the cause of the crash, the official said.

    In picture: An aircraft approaches to land at Calicut International Airport in Karipur, where the crash happened.

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    Civil Aviation Minister announced Rs 10 lakh interim relief for the kin of each of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh for the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for those who suffered minor injuries.

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    The Kerala government said Rs 10 lakh each would be given as compensation to the families of the deceased and the medical expenses of those under treatment will be borne by the state government.

    In picture: The wreckage from Air India Express plane.

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    Meanwhile, the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot were handed over to their families on Saturday. The relatives came with the Air India Express officials and the remains were taken to Ernakulam to be taken to their respective native places, Malappuram district collector said.

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About The Gallery

Eighteen people were killed and several others injured when an Air India Express flight (IX-1344) from Dubai overshot the tabletop runway on Friday night while landing at the international airport in Karipur, about 30 km from Kozhikode in Kerala. The flight that had 190 people on board, including a six-member crew, had fallen into a valley 35 feet below the runway and broke into two portions. (Pictures/AFP, AP)

First Published: 10 August, 2020 08:00 IST