Smog and the smell of smouldering wreckage filled the eerie air where charred fuselage of the Bhoja Air Boeing 737 lay scattered in a village, about eight kilometres from Benazir International Airport’s runway.
After initial chaos, army troops managed to cordon off the crash site as rescuers in orange jumpsuits and residents of Hussainabad village flashed torches to sift through the wreckage for survivors – but unfortunately there were none. A pall of gloom hung in the air and wailing ambulances could be heard in the distance. All roads leading to Hussainabad, including Islamabad Expressway, were clogged.
A fleet of ambulances from Rescue 1122, Capital Development Authority, Edhi and different hospitals of the twin-cities, were caught in a traffic snarl. Rain and stormy winds added to their problems.
The debris was scattered in Hussainabad village and adjoining farmland. Part of the airline’s name could be read on a large portion of the fuselage ripped off the passenger cabin.
The site was littered with burnt out luggage, blood-stained wreckage, and remains of some of the victims were covered with coloured sheets at the edge of a field.
A rescue official said apart from ‘three to four children’ all bodies were charred beyond recognition.
Part of the plane’s wing fell on a house in Hussainabad. The owner, Intezar Hussain, said it damaged a balcony but caused no casualties.
“The plane came down with a bang,” his son Jaffer Hussain said. “Its pilot perhaps tried to land into the farmland. It hit trees and exploded,” he said.
Other residents said they saw a flash in the air before the plane fell down with a thud, snapping the main cables supplying electricity to the area.
“I was returning home from work. As I approached my village, I saw something like a lightning bolt followed by a bang,” Malik Javiad Akhtar, a resident of Hussainabad, told The Express Tribune.
“I reached the site within 15 minutes of the crash. The area, around one kilometre in radius, was strewn with human debris and wreckage of the plane,” Akhtar said.
“It all happened in front of my eyes. I rushed away to save my life. When I looked back I saw flames coming out of the plane,” another witness added.
According to rescue officials, about 50 houses in the village were damaged – but there were no casualties on the ground.
While many people stepped forward to help with rescue efforts, some saw in the crash an opportunity to steal. Two men, on their way to the site, discussed how they would mingle with volunteers and steal undamaged luggage. (With additional input from agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.