Kerala crash: 14 onboard Air India Express flight critical
At least 14 people, who were traveling on the ill-fated Air India Express flight that crashed at Kozhikode Airport last Friday, are in critical condition, Malappuram District Collector K Gopalakrishnan said on Sunday. 18 people, including both pilots, died in the mishap, labeled as one of the worst ones of India's aviation history. Meanwhile, a probe to ascertain the crash's cause is underway.
On Friday evening, the Air India Express aircraft, carrying 191 people skidded off the risky table-top runway at the Kerala Airport, possibly due to heavy rains, fell into a gorge and split into two. The Boeing 737 aircraft was being run as a part of the Vande Bharat Mission, a program started by Centre to bring Indians, stuck abroad due to coronavirus pandemic, home.
Among those who lost their lives were Wing Commander Deepak Vasant Sathe, a former Indian Air Force officer, and Captain Akhilesh Kumar, who started flying in 2017. Commander Sathe had a glorious 22-year-long run at the IAF. And Kumar, a resident of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, leaves behind a pregnant wife. His cousin revealed that his wife's first delivery is due within 15-17 days.
Speaking to the news agency, Gopalakrishnan said till now 49 people have been discharged from hospitals across Malappuram and Kozhikode. 109 are still recuperating at different places, and 18 are critical. Air India Express said yesterday that mortal remains of 16 people were handed over to their families. The company also said an investigation has been launched.
Earlier, the black box from the ill-fated flight was retrieved and has been brought to Delhi. Its transcripts will be released soon, Director-General of DGCA, Arun Kumar, said on Sunday. "We are also going to talk to Boeing to examine the aircraft's original equipment and check for defects. Only after conducting a thorough and unbiased probe, can we tell what exactly happened," he added.
In another interaction with NDTV, Kumar said the pilots were informed about the poor weather conditions and tailwinds in advance. "The ATC had briefed the pilots about the weather condition...the call has to be taken by the commander to go around or to land," he added. Kumar also told ANI that the flight touched down very late, possibly triggering the accident.
Kumar also dismissed statements that the runway's length was short. It was said that due to a shorter runway, the flight didn't get much leeway. "It was a 9,000 feet runway, which is a fairly long runway as I have been saying all along. It's not a small runway, for example like Patna which is just 6,000 feet," he told HT.
"We can only say that it was a late touchdown and obviously the aircraft has skidded..That is also a big rectangle- -240 by 90 square meters -- in all. The aircraft should have stopped there but it has gone beyond that, (sic)" he added.