The ill-fated AI Express aircraft skidded off the runway after landing on its second attempt amid heavy rains and plunging 35 feet into the valley below.
New Delhi/Kozhikode: In one of the worst air disasters witnessed in Kerala, an Air India Express flight returning from Dubai under the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission skidded off the runway at the ‘tabletop’ airport in Kozhikode, leaving at least 14 persons dead, including the pilot Captain D.V. Sathe.
Expressing deep anguish over the incident, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said a formal inquiry will be conducted into the incident by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
The AAIB was formed in 2012 as an independent accident probe committee under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Describing the incident in a tweet, the minister said the aircraft overshot the runway in rainy conditions and plunged 35 feet into a slope before breaking into two pieces.
Puri added that relief teams from the Air India and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) have been rushed to the accident spot from Delhi and Mumbai.
On Friday evening, the ill-fated AI Express aircraft skidded off the runway after landing on its second attempt amid heavy rains and plunging 35 feet into the valley below.
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Air India Express aircraft landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 2,000 meters in heavy rain, but overshot and nosedived into the valley and broke into two pieces.
Meanwhile, confusion prevailed on the actual number of people on board.
As per authorities in Kerala, there were 184 people — 128 men, 46 women, and 10 children — on board, as five persons having tickets did not board the aircraft.
An eyewitness said that he rushed to the spot on hearing the sound of the crash.
“I live around 20 meters away from the compound wall of the airport. After hearing a loud sound, a few of us came rushing. We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall,” a local resident said.
“We started to bang the airport gate, but the CISF personnel didn’t open the gate. We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving after which the CISF personnel asked for help and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first besides assisting several others,” he added.
Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said that the condition of a mother and child was reported to be serious.
Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, who hails from Kerala, said the Karipur airport is a tabletop airport, and that was one reason why the plane plunged into the valley.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan about the incident. Tabletop airports have a disadvantage during rainy seasons. Generally, during heavy rains, aircraft are not allowed to land at tabletop airports. All these things will come out in the DGCA probe,” said Muraleedharan.
According to information received from the spot, the passengers sitting in the front rows of the plane have been seriously injured.
The condition of 13 passengers who were brought to a private hospital is stated to be critical.
Vijayan has directed Local Self Government Minister A.C. Moideen and Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel to rush to the spot to oversee the relief operations.