At least 14 people died when An Air India Express flight returning from Dubai under the Vande Bharat repatriation mission for Indians skidded off the runway In Kozhikode, Kerala, Friday evening.
The plane toppled off the runway at the “table-top” Kozhikode airport, plunging 35 feet into the valley below, breaking into two, after it landed on its second attempt amid heavy rain at 7.41pm local time.
The confirmed dead include the pilot, DV Sathe. The toll may go up as the condition of 13 passengers who were brought to a hospital was reported to be serious.
According to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Air India Express AXB1344, a B737 aircraft landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 1.24 miles in heavy rain with 190 people on board.
As per India’s ministry of civil aviation, rescue operations were on and passengers were being taken to hospitals for medical care.
Authorities in Kerala, however, said that there were 184 people — 128 men, 46 women and 10 children — on board, as five people who had tickets did not board the aircraft.
An eyewitness said that he rushed to the spot on hearing the sound of the crash.
“I live around 20 meters away from the compound wall of the airport and hearing the loud sound a few of us came rushing. We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall,” the local resident said.
“We were a few people and we started to bang the airport gate, but the CISF [paramilitary forces that guard industrial installations] personnel failed to open. We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving after which the CISF personnel asked for help and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first and assisted several others also,” he added.
Kerala state health minister K.K. Shailaja said that the condition of a mother and child was reported to be serious.
India’s junior foreign minister V. Muraleedharan, who is from Kerala, said the Karipur airport in Kozhikode (also known as Calicut) is a table-top airport and that was one reason why the plane plunged into the valley.
“Table-top airports have a disadvantage during rainy seasons. Generally, during heavy rains, aircraft are not allowed to land at table top airports. All these things will come out in the DGCA probe,” said Muraleedharan.
Local legislator TV Ibrahim, who was at the Kondotty Relief Hospital near the airport, asked TV channels to beam the images of a young boy he was carrying in his arms — whose parents were missing — so that it would help the boy’s relatives locate him.
According to information from the spot, passengers who were sitting in the front rows of the plane have been seriously injured.