A 12-seater aircraft crashed at a construction site in Ghatkopar area of suburban Mumbai on Thursday afternoon, killing all the four people on board and a pedestrian. The Beechcraft King C90 aircraft, owned by Mumbai-based UY Aviation Pvt Ltd, was on a test flight after three years of maintenance when it crashed.
The deceased have been identified on the basis of ornaments and other items but there is no medical confirmation yet. They have been identified as Captain P S Rajput (49), co-pilot Marya Zuberi (47), aircraft maintenance engineer Surabhi and technician Manish Pandey — Surabhi and Pandey were employees of a company handling repairs of the aircraft. Identity of the pedestrian is yet to be ascertained.
A two-member team of Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau is to arrive on Friday to probe the crash. DGCA officials said low visibility due to heavy rain or engine failure could have led to the crash. The black box and flight data recorder have been kept at the DGCA’s office. “We have sealed flying and maintenance records of the aircraft company. Call records with ATC have also been seized,” a DGCA official said.
Around 1.10 pm, the aircraft crashed into under-construction wing of Lifescapes Prithvii building in Ghatkopar (West) and burst into flames. According to eye-witnesses, police and fire brigade reached within ten minutes. “Those on board were strapped to their. While we found two bodies immediately, we had to dig to find the others,” a rescue official said.
The 22-year-old aircraft was purchased by UY Aviation from Uttar Pradesh government in 2015. According to sources at Juhu airport, the plane was conducting its first test sortie after maintenance. “It had completed close to 40 minutes in air and flown over Surat. It was about to land at Juhu airport,” an airport official said.
The pilots were in touch with ATC at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport as per protocol. “Hardly 200 nautical miles from the airport, the pilots lost touch with ATC. In their last communication, they informed Juhu ATC and Mumbai ATC that they are close to landing at Juhu airport,” a source at the Juhu airport said. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the crash site and said the mishap would be probed.
About 50 labourers had a close shave as they were away on lunch break. Three labourers, Luvkush Kumar, Naresh Kumar Nishad, and Prashant Mahakale, however, sustained injuries. Burn injuries on his face, Nishad, 24, was in Rajawadi Hospital. “I did not see the plane coming. There was a loud crash. I felt a blast of hot air on my face and started running,” he said.
Anil Chauhan, head of operations, UY Aviation, said, “The pilot had flown over 5000 hours. The co-pilot used to fly with Jet Airways.” The engineers, he said, were from Indamer Aviation Limited, which completed maintenance of the plane. “It was taken on a test flight as we were to start operations soon,” he said, adding that UY Aviation would co-operate in the probe.
Till late Thursday, the bodies were not handed over to families in the absence of medical confirmation of identity. Police surgeon Dr S M Patil said teeth, skin and blood samples were preserved for DNA testing. “The bodies are completely burnt. Identification is difficult,” he said. Police have lodged a case and are recording witnesses’ statements.