| The wreckage of the PIA plane in Multan. (AFP)
Multan, July 10 (Reuters): Two army brigadiers and two judges of the Lahore high court were among 45 killed after a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane crashed in wheat fields on the outskirts of Multan today, the local police chief said.
“Everyone is dead,” police chief Iftikhar Babar said as he stood at the spot where the Fokker twin-engined aircraft exploded in flames after hitting the wall of a mango orchard. Flight PK-688, which was on its way to Islamabad via Lahore, was carrying 41 passengers and four crew members. Malik Bashir, PIA’s station manager at Multan airport,ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack.
Built in 1964, the Fokker F-27 turboprop aircraft crashed 1.5 km from the airport, just two minutes after take off, Farooq Shah, PIA deputy managing director, said in Karachi.
Rescue workers helped recover the passengers’ remains and hunted for clues into the cause of the crash.
“There are few bodies which are identifiable,” said Shahid Pervez, a civil defence official, as the workers loaded charred corpses into ambulances.
Babar quoted witnesses as saying that they saw flames coming out from the aircraft shortly after it took off. It appeared to be tilting to the right, they said.
“I saw the plane diving downwards. It hit electricity wires and then crashed after hitting a wall of an orchard,” said Mohammad Akram, a farmer who was working in his fields. He said the plane burst into flames after impact.
Bereaved women wailed in despair outside the Nishtar Medical hospital as they searched for their relatives.
“We can’t say now why the plane crashed. the captain did not make any contact with (the control) tower,” Shah said. According to the record of the last 15 days, there was nothing wrong with the aircraft, he added. President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz both expressed grief over the tragic crash.