India air crash investigators seek clues

Investigators at the site of
Saturday’s airliner crash in southern India are searching for the jet’s data
recorders to find out what caused the disaster.

The Air India Express Boeing 737
overshot Mangalore airport’s hilltop runway and crashed into a valley, bursting
into flames and killing 158.

Eight survivors are being treated
in hospital for burns and other injuries.

Relatives of the victims have been
collecting the remains of loved ones and preparing their funerals.

Arvind Jadhav, chairman of Air
India, told reporters in Mangalore on Sunday that 158 bodies had been recovered
but that 12 remained unidentified, burnt beyond recognition.

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder, in the
Indian capital Delhi, says doctors are trying to use dental records and other
means to identify them.

He adds that team of experts have
arrived in Mangalore to take samples for DNA testing, a process which could
take days.

Two teams of US investigators, one
from the National Transportation Safety Board and the other from aircraft
manufacturer Boeing, have been dispatched to help with the crash investigation.

It is India’s first major air
disaster in nearly 10 years.

All the passengers on the flight
from Dubai were Indian nationals, an Air India official said. Many were thought
to have been migrant workers in the Gulf emirate.

One man, Samir Sheikh, lost 16
family members who were travelling to India to attend the funeral of his
grandmother, according to the Dubai-based newspaper Khaleej Times.

The few survivors described hearing
a loud thud shortly after touchdown.

Umer Farooq spoke to reporters from
his hospital bed where he is being treated for burns to his arms, legs and

“The plane veered off toward
some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke,” he said.
“I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out.”

Mangalore’s airport lies on top of
a hill with steep drops at the end of each of its two runways. One of the
runways was extended in 2006 to accommodate larger planes like the Boeing 737.

Indian aviation officials said the
landing conditions at the time of the crash were fair with good visibility, and
that there had been no distress call from the plane’s cockpit.

Air India Express is the low-cost
arm of the national carrier, Air India.

India’s air safety record has been
good in the past decade, despite a rapid increase in the number of private
airlines and air travel in the country.

The last major crash happened in
the city of Patna in July 2000, killing at least 50 people.

World Story

Volunteers take away the body of a victim at the crash site of an Air India Express plane in Mangalore.
Photo: File