An Air India Express flight, returning from Dubai under the Vande Bharat mission, crashed at the “table top” Kozhikode airport in Kerala on August 7 evening, leaving at least 18, of the 190 people aboard, dead including pilot, Captain DV Sathe and his co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar.
Malappuram District Collector K Gopalakrishnan on August 8 confirmed that at least 18 persons, including the pilot and co-pilot of the Dubai-Calicut Air India Express flight, were killed after it overshot the runway at Kozhikode International Airport in Karipur.
The plane skidded off the runaway as it landed on its second attempt amid heavy rain, plunged 35 feet into the valley below, and broke into two pieces.
Following the accident, which occurred at 7.41 pm, the Kozhikode airport has been closed and the flights scheduled to land there have been diverted to Kannur airport, about 80 km away.
Expressing deep anguish over the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said a formal enquiry will be conducted into the incident by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Air India Express AXB1344, a B737-800 aircraft, with 190 people on board, landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 2,000 metres in heavy rain, but overshot and nose-dived into the valley, breaking into two pieces.
Authorities in Kerala, however, said that there were 184 people – 128 men, 46 women and 10 children – on board, as five people who had a ticket did not board the aircraft.
According to the latest information collated from the various hospitals where the injured have been hospitalised, there were 123 who have been injured and the conditions of 15 of them were serious.
Malappuram District Collector Gopalakrishnan said that the last of the two passengers inside the aircraft has been taken out.
Passenger Mohammed Ali, who lost his job in Dubai and was returning home with three of his friends, said that they were watching the beautiful sight of Kozhikode town when the aircraft was getting ready to land.
“But suddenly, we felt the aircraft was going up again. Surprisingly, there was no announcement. Then it circled for about 15 minutes…. and then everything happened in a jiffy… it came down and there was a noise. Soon, things came to a standstill and I managed to escape through the opening, landed on the wing and jumped off.
“Then my fear was will it go up in fire and hence, I ran. In the process, my leg and hip suffered an injury. I was one of the first people to be taken to a hospital. I am now waiting for the doctor to come to take me for a scan, as I have a pain. Otherwise, I am fine,” said Ali, who hails from Koilandy in Kozhikode district.
An eyewitness on the ground said that he rushed to the spot on hearing the sound of the crash.
“I live around 20 metres away from the compound wall of the airport and hearing the loud sound, a few of us came rushing. We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall,” the local resident said.
“We were a few people and we started to bang the airport gate, but the CISF personnel did not open it. We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving after which the CISF personnel asked for help and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first and assisted several others also,” he added.