India plane wreckage becomes tourist attraction

Image caption A woman is being photographed by her daughter at the crash site

A patch of parched farmland on the outskirts of the Indian capital has witnessed a steady trickle of sightseers in recent days.

The reason: it is where a light aircraft suffering from engine problems dramatically crash-landed almost a week ago.

With its wreckage yet to be cleared, the plane, which was carrying seven, all of whom escaped death, remains ringed off by police with a "do not cross" tape.

Police said hundreds have visited daily since last Tuesday when the aircraft hit the ground, sprang back up in the air and then fell again, skidding for about 200 metres before coming to a halt on the field in Kair village in southwest Delhi.

As I approached the crash site, I saw many curious locals jumping off motorbikes or walking a couple of kilometres to take selfies or group pictures in front of the aircraft.

Image caption Engineers dismantling the plane at the site
Image caption Local women taking selfies at the crash site
Image caption Children flock to an ice cream vendor at the crash site
Image caption The plane landed in a farm outside Delhi

Some families were passing by in their vehicles and said they thought they would take a quick detour.

"We wanted to see the spectacle. We saw it on the news," said an auto-rickshaw driver visiting with his family, including two children. "It's a relief no one was hurt."

Others just wanted to see a plane up close and personal.

"I've never been on a plane before. I've never been this close to one before," said Bhanvati, a middle-aged housewife who had travelled to the crash site with family members.

Image caption A crane operator sits next to the crashed plane
Image caption A group of boys protect themselves from the searing heat at the crash site
Image caption Some said they just wanted to see a plane up close and personal

Its removal is imminent. Already, lifting straps from two cranes are wrapped around the body of the Beechcraft King Air C-90 aircraft. Its owner - Alchemist Airways - has sent technicians to dismantle the plane.

It was ferrying a critically-ill patient, his doctor and relatives from Patna, the capital of eastern Bihar state, to a hospital in Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi.

When engine failure was detected, the aircraft's two pilots sought permission to land at Delhi airport. But, of course, it failed to make it there - only 10km (six miles) away from the crash-landing site.

"I remember seeing the tyres come off first," said Anil Rathode, a labourer who was working on a construction site several metres away from the field when the plane came down. "We ran away, fearing it would blow up."

Luckily it did not, and everyone on board was able to escape safely. India's aviation regulator has launched an inquiry into the accident.

Pictures by Enrico Fabian