An Air India Express Vande Bharat flight from Dubai with 191 passengers, including seven crew members, skidded and fell off the runway, plunging into a valley soon after landing at Kozhikode international airport on Friday.
"A Dubai-Kozhikode Air India Express flight fell down into the valley after landing at Runway 10 of Karipur Airport and broke down in two pieces. There were 191 people on board. Visibility was 2000 metres at the time of landing," the Director General of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
Initial reports said the pilot, D.V. Sathe, co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar, and over 15 passengers have died, and several others have been seriously injured. They have been admitted to hospitals in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. At the time of filing this report there was no official confirmation of the number of people who have lost their lives. The condition of nearly 20 passengers were said to be critical.
Union Minister V. Muraleedharan said more than 10 passengers had lost their lives, according to information he had received at around 10 p.m.
Initial reports of the accident came at around 8 p.m. and by 9.30 p.m. nearly 172 of the total 174 passengers had been rescued from the accident site, K. Gopalakrishnan, Malappuram District Collector, said. Two passengers were still trapped at the tail end of the aircraft even late into the night.
The incident occurred at around 7.45 p.m., and eyewitness accounts said the plane crashed through a wall at the end of the table-top runway into "a valley" and broke into two pieces with a loud noise. Several passengers, including children, are said to have sustained serious injuries.
No fire was reported, a factor that probably saved a lot of lives on a day when the northern districts of Kerala had seen torrential rain and a lot of deaths in landslips in the hilly areas.
Initial reports said many passengers had broken limbs and some were bleeding profusely as they were taken out of the airport after an initial scramble for ambulances and rescue workers. People from the neighbourhood soon joined the rescue work at the accident site, and an access path was created to the site from the nearby road.
The airport reported above normal rainfall all through the day and the poor visibility was also stated as a possible reason for the accident.
The Air India Express flight had several passengers returning home from UAE after losing jobs or after their visas had expired. Some had said they were stranded tourists or students returning to their homes. Some were travelling on "medical emergency".
The pilot, Wing Commander (retd) D.V. Sathe, who died, had nearly three decades of flying experience, and began his career with the Indian Air Force, reports quoting his colleagues said.
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