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21 killed in air crash in Pakistan

Karachi: All 21 people on board a small aircraft chartered by an international oil company were killed when it crashed shortly after taking off from the airport in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi Friday, officials said.

The Beechcraft 1900 aircraft of private carrier JS Air, which had been chartered to ferry employees of the oil company, had 19 passengers and two crew members on board, Civil Aviation Authority officials said.

Geo News channel reported at least one foreigner was on the aircraft but did not give details of his nationality.

The twin-engine turboprop aircraft crashed five minutes after taking off from Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport at 7:13 am due to an engine fault, said Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George.

The pilot informed the control tower that one of the engines had failed. The pilot was advised to turn back and land. Before he could do so, the aircraft crashed in an open field at an army central ordnance depot near the airport and burst into flames.

Lt Col Noor Alam, an army officer who participated in the rescue operation, told the media: “No one survived the crash. There were no casualties on the ground as the aircraft crashed into an open field. The situation is under control and the army mounted the best possible rescue operation.”

Army personnel cordoned off the area and began pulling bodies out of the debris after dousing the flames.

Ambulances of private rescue services took the bodies to the Jinnah Hospital. Footage on television showed the aircraft’s tail lying separated from the fuselage.

Alam said all the bodies were charred beyond recognition and it was impossible to make out whether the dead were Pakistanis or foreigners.

“One of our officers fainted on seeing the bodies,” he said. The nose of the aircraft had to be cut to remove the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot, Alam said.

The aircraft was taking a group of workers to an oilfield at Bhitshah, some 190 km northeast of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province.

JS Air had been chartered by the international oil company to ferry its workers as part of a weekly change of shift at the oilfield.

Due to security concerns, the workers are flown directly to the oilfield. Besides the pilot and co-pilot, 17 passengers, a guard from the Airport Security Force and a technician were on board the aircraft, officials were quoted as saying by TV news channels.

JS Air spokesman Nadeem Hanif told the media that the plane was properly checked and completely fit for flying.

Hanif did not mention anything about the cause of the crash, saying an investigation had been launched by the company. Hanif confirmed that 21 people, including two pilots, were on board at the time of the crash.

“It was absolutely fit to carry out operations. It was airworthy and checked as per standards,” he said.

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