As Fazal Rahman, 80, and his wife, Wahida Rahman, 74, boarded a plane in on Friday, their family’s biggest fear was that they might get catch the coronavirus on their way to spend the holiday in Karachi.
Instead the couple, who had been married for 54 years, were among the 97 people killed when an Airbus A-320, operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), crashed into a Karachi neighbourhood — country’s worst air disaster since 2012.
“We held many calls deliberating with doctors and family […] Our biggest concern was that they made the trip safely,” said their son, Inamur Rahman, who instead of welcoming his parents for the Eidul Fitr holidays found himself picking through the wreckage of flight PK-8303 praying for a miracle.
“I got in my car and followed the smoke and the ambulances,” said Rahman. “When I saw the area, I realised that it would be a miracle if they had made it,” he added.
“I lost both my parents in this tragic & horrific crash. I submit to Allah’s will. However the ordeal we are suffering at the hands of #PIA is inexcusable. Callous, Insensitive, incompetent…. #PIAPlaneCrash [sic],” tweeted his brother, Adil Rahman.
There were two survivors from onboard the aircraft, while no fatalities were reported on the ground in the densely packed neighborhood of multi-story homes abutting the eastern edge of Jinnah International Airport where the plane came down.
More than two dozen homes were damaged as the airliner roared in, leaving a tangle of severed electric cables and exposed rebar — a broken wing rested against the side of a home, an engine on the ground nearby.
The jet fuel set the wreckage ablaze, along with homes and vehicles, sending black smoke into the sky, a Reuters witness said.
Crowds rushed to the site, relatives searching for loved ones, rescue workers and the curious. Scores of ambulances and fire-engines jammed the narrow, debris-cluttered streets.
One rescue worker told Reuters two bodies were found with oxygen masks on. Many bodies pulled from the wreckage were charred beyond recognition.
Airline’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Air Marshal Arshad Malik said on Friday the last message from the pilot indicated a technical problem. A team from Airbus is due to arrive to investigate, a PIA spokesperson said.
SCREAMS AND FIRE:
Shahid Ahmed, 45, was at the airport waiting for his mother to arrive. When he reached the crash site he saw rescuers retrieving bodies and people taking selfies.
“There was no one responsible at the site, people were busy posing for pictures,” said a distraught Ahmed, who lost his mother, Dilshad Begum, 75, who was also flying to Karachi for Eid.
After scouring the site and failing to find his mother, Ahmed went to look for her in hospitals.
There was no list of the dead or injured at any of the hospitals, it was all chaos and mismanagement,” said Ahmed, who sobbed as he recounted the ordeal.
“Searching for our mother’s body was a nightmare.”
One of the survivors, engineer Muhammad Zubair, told a local media outlet the pilot came down to land, briefly touched down, then pulled up again.
He announced he was going to make a second try shortly before the plane crashed, Zubair said from the hospital.
“I could hear screams from all directions. Kids and adults. All I could see was a fire. I couldn’t see any people – just hear their screams,” he said.
PLEA FOR HELP:
Meanwhile, Arif Ali Faruqui says his entire world came crashing down just two days before Eid as his wife and three children were also onboard the ill-fated plane.
In a video message, Faruqui of Lahore asked Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan to help him in identifying the remains of his family while casting doubt over the handling of the DNA sampling by authorities.
“If I hadn’t identified my wife or daughter’s bodies, the authorities could have handed over the remains of the wrong people,” says Faruqui in a video message that, according to The Express Tribune, has gone viral.
He urged PM Imran to take action against the “red tape and bureaucracy” faced by people who lost loved ones in the crash.
Faruqui says his wife wanted to spend Eid in Karachi with her mother, who has terminal cancer.
“The decision to send the kids was taken very late as they wanted to see their grandmother,” he told.
Sitting outside the emergency ward of Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital in, he broke down while narrating his ordeal.
“The process for getting death certificates and collecting remains is extremely insensitive and inept,” said Faruqui, who had to identify the charred remains of his family.
After facing delays in the handing over of remains of identified family members, Faruqui says he is being harassed by police as the burial took place without issuance of death certificate.
“I was questioned for 90 minutes and the document is still not issued,” he told
There is also a trust deficit between authorities, he added. “Two separate teams of Sindh and Punjab are conducting DNA tests.” He added that some people had even taking remains from the morgue without confirmation of identity.