May 23, 2020 / 9:14 AM / 14 days ago

Death toll from Pakistan airliner crash 97, black box found

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - The flight data recorder from the Pakistani airliner that crashed into a residential neighbourhood of Karachi has been found, an official said on Saturday, as the death toll rose to 97.

There were two survivors from onboard the aircraft, while no fatalities were reported in the densely populated area of the city where the aircraft crash-landed on Friday.

Pakistan International Airlines flight PK 8303, an Airbus A320, was flying from Lahore to Karachi with 99 people on board when it went down in mid-afternoon while trying a second landing attempt. [nL4N2D4374]

“The black box had been found late yesterday, we are handing it over to the inquiry board,” PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan said. He said that included both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

The airline’s chief executive, Arshad Malik, said on Friday the last message received from the pilot indicated there was a technical problem.

Another senior civil aviation official told Reuters it appeared the plane had been unable to lower its landing gear for the first approach.

Aviation safety experts say air crashes typically have multiple causes.

Seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a respected aviation monitoring website.

Airbus said the jet first flew in 2004 and was fitted with engines built by CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, announced soon after the crash that there would be an inquiry, and a four-member team was constituted Friday night, according to a notification from the government’s aviation division, seen by Reuters.

The team includes three members of the Aircraft Accident and Investigation Board and one from the Pakistan Air Force’s safety board. The team will issue a preliminary statement within a month, the notification says.

A statement from the provincial health minister’s office on Saturday put the death toll at 97, with no confirmed deaths on the ground.

Army and civil administration personnel were clearing through the debris in the Karachi neighbourhood on Saturday and assisting residents whose homes had been damaged.

Slideshow (9 Images)

“Rescue Op in progress ... 25 affected houses cleared, their residents accommodated at various places with assistance of Civil Administration,” the Army said on Twitter.

Pakistan only last week resumed domestic flights it had suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people travelling for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, expected to fall on Sunday or Monday in the country.

Friday’s crash is the worst air disaster in Pakistan since 2012, when a Bhoja Air passenger aircraft, a Boeing 737, crashed in Islamabad, killing 127 people.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi and by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by William Mallard and Ros Russell

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