Black box recovered, sent to accident investigation bureau
The crucial black box of the ill-fated Air India Express flight that could throw light on how it overshot the runway here and crashed was recovered on Saturday with the toll in the accident rising to 18 after a passenger succumbed to injuries, officials said.
Investigations into the cause of the crash are underway with top officials of the airlines and aviation regulator DGCA rushing here. Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri also arrived here to oversee relief measures.
The AIE flight from Dubai with 190 people on board overshot the tabletop runway at the international airport in Karipur, about 30km from here in neighbouring Mallapuram district, while landing in heavy rains and fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke into two portions on Friday night.
The state government said the condition of 23 of the 149 injured undergoing treatment at various hospitals was critical. One person succumbed to his injuries, taking the toll to 18.
"The digital flight data recorder (DFDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the aircraft have been retrieved. AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau) is conducting investigations," Puri tweeted.
The minister said he would consult "with senior civil aviation officials & professionals", adding that the reasons for the mishap, in which the two pilots were among those dead, were being investigated.
Puri later announced Rs 10 lakh interim relief for each of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh for the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for those who suffered minor injuries.
He also said the pilot in-command of the crashed Boeing 737 aircraft Deepak Vasant 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 in the past.
The state government said Rs 10 lakh each would be given as compensation to the families of the deceased. The medical expenses of those under treatment will be taken over by the government, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
While the toll was put at 17 on Friday, it rose to 18 with the death of one more person, Malappuram District Collector K Gopalakrishnan said. According to the official list released by him, four of the deceased were children -- three girls and a one-year old boy -- and seven were men and other women. Two girls were aged two and the other was five.
"Currently, 149 people are in various hospitals of Malappuram and Kozhikode, out of which 23 are critical. Earlier, 23 were discharged after being provided initial medical assistance," Vijayan said.
The chief minister along with Governor Arif Mohammad Khan visited the injured at the Kozhikoide Medical College hospital.
Vijayan, who held a high-level meeting here in which Governor Khan also participated, told reporters that all the crash victims would be tested for Covid-19. "So far, only one victim has tested positive for coronavirus," he said.
The CM appreciated the instant response of residents living in the vicinity of the airport and also the local authorities to the tragedy, which ensured minimum loss of lives in a disaster of such large magnitude.
Black box with aviation investigation bureau
An official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the “black box”, comprising the data recorder and the voice recorder, are with the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau and will be sent to Delhi for further investigation.
The cockpit voice recorder keeps a recording of all the conversations taking place in a plane’s cockpit and along with the digital flight data recorder that details such as airspeed, altitude and fuel flow can help in finding out the cause of the crash, the official said.
Amid the tragedy, there was a coronavirus scare too with samples of a passenger who died in the mishap testing positive for the pathogen, prompting state health minister K.K. Shailaja asking all those engaged in rescue operations to go on self-quarantine and get themselves tested.
Minister assures victim families
Puri also assured the kin of victims that steps would be taken to get them compensation in line with an international convention of International Civil Aviation Organisation(ICAO). "We are working very closely with the state and central machineries to tide over the difficult situation and extend possible support to the families of deceased passengers and provide all kinds of assistance to the injured," Puri said.
Earlier, he along with his ministerial colleague V Muraleedharan and others visited the accident site. Muraleedharan, the minister of state for external affairs, arrived here this morning from New Delhi on the directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Four crew members safe
The Air India Express said four crew members of the flight were safe, while the employees union of the low-cost carrier, said they were under treatment at the hospital here for injuries suffered in the mishap.
It said families of the deceased pilots have been escorted to Kozhikode.
The airline also said three relief flights had been arranged to assist passengers and their family members affected in the accident that also brought back memories of the crash of Air India Express flight IX 812 on May 22, 2010 at Mangaluru International Airport. The flight from Dubai had overshot the runway and plunged down the cliff into a wooded valley, killing 158 people.
Glare on airport safety
As top officials rushed here for investigations, it emerged the aviation regulator had issued a show-cause notice to the director of the 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.
It had conducted the inspection after an Air India Express flight coming from Dammam in Saudi Arabia had a "tail strike" while landing at the airport here on July 2 last year, the official said.