Five killed as chartered plane crashes in Mumbai

Five killed as chartered plane crashes in Mumbai

Firefighters inspect the site of a plane crash in Mumbai. Reuters

A chartered 12-seater Beechcraft aircraft crashed into Mumbai's congested central suburbs of Ghatkopar on Thursday, killing four people on board and a pedestrian.

Three others were injured in the mishap and have been admitted to the Rajawadi Hospital at Vidyavihar. "There was a loud explosion, the aircraft then hit a tree and smashed into the ground. A huge red flame billowed out," said Amit Shah, who stays close to the accident site. 

The King Air C 90 (number VT-UPZ), owned by UY Aviation Pvt Ltd, crashed around 1.15 pm on an under-construction building surrounded by slums and several multi-storey buildings at Maniklal Estate in Ghatkopar West.  "I clearly heard three explosions," said Pushpa Patel, a resident of the adjacent Patel Nivas, who was drying clothes.

"It was rattling...then we heard people in the building talking about the crash," she said.  The victims include pilot Capt P S Rajput, co-pilot and navigator Capt Maria, aircraft maintenance engineer Surabhi and technician Manish Kumar Pande.

The pedestrian has been identified as Govind Pandit. The injured, Lavkush Kumar (21), Mahesh Kumar Nishad (28) and Prashant Mahakal (23), are all construction workers. "All are stable," BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation officials said. Soon after the crash, local residents informed the police and the fire brigade. 

"We have been staying here for decades. Never ever thought that such a thing would happen. Thankfully, we must say, the alertness of the pilot saved many lives. Instead of crashing in a crowded area, he chose an under-construction building," said Raja Raut, a local resident. 

Officials from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also reached the spot. "The initial investigations would be undertaken by DGCA after which a detailed enquiry would be done by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AIIB)," officials said. Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has expressed "deep shock" over the incident, officials added.

The black box has been retrieved by a police team and firemen and handed over to civil aviation authorities. The aircraft had taken off from Juhu airport on an "engineering flight" and was to return there.

The plane was earlier owned by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government and was sold in 2004 to UY Aviation. "As of now, it is neither owned nor operated by the UP government," said UP Civil Aviation Minister Nand Gopal Gupta.

The plane crashed less than 3 km from the main runway of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.  "It is a worrying incident. A probe would reveal the causes behind the accident," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the Home portfolio.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former minority affairs minister Naseem Khan demanded a detailed probe into the incident. "How can a small chartered flight enter the funnel meant for Mumbai airport's commercial flights?" he asked.