Pakistan said Thursday it will open an investigation into a plane crash the day before in the country's northwest that killed 47 passengers and crew, as military helicopters ferried the remains of victims to the capital.
The small, twin-propeller aircraft was travelling from the scenic mountain resort of Chitral to Islamabad on Wednesday when one of its engines failed shortly after takeoff, causing it to crash into a hillside village, according to Pervez George, an official at the Civil Aviation Authority. No one survived.
The plane belonged to Pakistan International Airlines, the national carrier, and had 42 passengers and five crew members on board, PIA spokesman Daniyal Gilani said.
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on authorities to investigate the crash during a high-level meeting held Thursday, according to a government statement. He also asked that DNA tests be carried out as soon as possible to identify the victims.
Witnesses said they saw the plane flying very low for several minutes before tilting and going down, then bursting into flames upon crashing in the village of Gug.
"The plane was swaying ... then I saw it hitting the hill with a loud bang," said Chaudhry Rustam, a villager who rushed to the crash site, where thick smoke billowed from the debris. Zainab Nazakat said she was preparing dinner when she saw the plane coming down, hitting several trees and a water supply tank.
Reporters at the crash site on Thursday saw the plane's wreckage strewn over a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) radius, blackened from the smoke and fire overnight, with clothes, shoes and passenger bags scattered about.
Among those killed in the crash was Junaid Jamshed, a popular pop singer-turned-Islamic preacher who went to Chitral along with his wife. The couple's remains have yet to be identified. On Thursday, doctors handed over remains of three victims to their families.
PIA says the plane lost contact with the control tower just before the crash, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Islamabad.
Azam Sehgal, the PIA chairman, told a news conference at the Islamabad airport on Wednesday that the plane's black box recorder had been found. He said the pilot had told the control tower an engine developed a technical fault. The pilot later made a "mayday call," shortly before the plane disappeared from radar.
In Islamabad, officials were on hand at a sports complex to receive the remains, which were brought by military helicopters. The identification of the remains could take up to six days, according to Cabinet Minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.
About 150 people were killed in a plane crash near Islamabad in 2010, and last year, a military helicopter carrying several diplomats crashed in the country's north, killing eight people. In 2012, a Bhoja Air passenger plane crashed near Islamabad due to bad weather, killing all 127 people on board.