Pakistan crash pilot made mayday call after engine problem

Flames rise from the wreckage of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) ATR 42 turboprop passenger plane after it crashed near Abbottabad, Pakistan, 7 December 2016. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Flight PK-661 was flying from Chitral to Islamabad

The pilot of a flight that crashed in Pakistan made a mayday call just before losing contact, the airline said.

He also told flight controllers of an engine problem at 16:09 local time (11:09 GMT) on Wednesday, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol told reporters.

All 47 people on the twin-propeller plane flying to Islamabad were killed.

An investigation is ongoing, but the carrier has insisted strict checks left "no room for any technical error".

"I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound aircraft," Mr Saigol said. "I think there was no technical error or human error."

A flight data recorder has been found, the airline said.

PIA had earlier put the number of people on board at 48, but on Thursday said 42 passengers and five crew had died in the crash.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Coffins for victims were unloaded at a hospital in Abbottabad

Pakistani authorities have said the apparent engine issue will be a focus of inquiries.

Irfan Elahi, from Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, told Dawn newspaper: "At the moment, there is no other reason for the plane crash other than the failure of the left engine."

The plane crashed in the Havelian area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, about 70km (43 miles) from Islamabad.

Police said the passengers' charred remains have been taken to a hospital for DNA identification.

Famous pop singer turned Islamic preacher Junaid Jamshed was on board, along with three foreigners - two Austrians and one Chinese citizen.

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Media captionFootage on social media showed what appeared to be the crash site

There was anger amongst relatives of the victims, gathering at the hospital to collect their loved ones' remains.

Ghulam Rasool Khan told the AP news agency: "It is a murder and I want to know who killed my brother."

Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan, but the last major crash involving a PIA aircraft was in 2006, in which 44 people died.


Junaid Jamshed: Pop star turned preacher

Image copyright AFP

Junaid Jamshed was one of the pioneers of Pakistan's pop scene that took off after the 1988 death of the country's conservative military dictator, Gen Ziaul Haq. Vital Signs, of which he was the lead singer, is still considered one of the best Pakistani bands of the era.

After the 11 September attacks in the US, he gradually moved away from music and closer to religious circles. Influenced by Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement that encourages Muslims to be more religiously observant, he grew a long beard and switched permanently to the local kurta-shalwar dressing and a preacher's turban. In this new incarnation, he evolved into a singer of na'at, or devotional Islamic hymns praising God and the Prophet Mohammad, which are sung without musical instruments.

During this period, he started a fashion-design chain called J. (J-Dot) which created fusion clothing - traditional garments with a modern touch. The chain has branches in all the major Pakistani cities, as well as in the Middle East and UK. He had three wives, the youngest of whom was with him on the ill-fated flight.

Read the full profile.

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