A chartered plane, carrying four passengers onboard, crashed at a construction site in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, on Thursday, June 28. There were no survivors and the mishap also killed a pedestrian. In fact, the toll could have been higher, but the construction site was empty as the labourers had reportedly gone for lunch.
Since then, several details have emerged on the plane and the accident, and it is now being said that the aircraft VT-UPZ did not have a certificate of airworthiness.
The aircraft, which earlier belonged to the Uttar Pradesh government, had remained grounded for the last nine years and was on a test flight on Thursday. It was brought to Mumbai several years ago and was so damaged that it had to be transported from Delhi in a truck, reported NDTV, quoting sources.
In the nine years, the aircraft is said to have gone through extensive repairs and Mumbai-based firm UY Aviation that owned the plane is said to have spent about Rs 8 crore for repair and maintenance. The DGCA too was yet to award the flight a certificate of airworthiness.
"The aircraft, that crashed was not a part of our inventory. It was supposed to get inducted only after the DGCA approved of it. Till the day of the crash, the aircraft was being maintained at the Indemar aviation MRO at Juhu," the Indian Express quoted Captain Srikrishna Vinod, chief of flight safety at UY Aviation.
The aircraft had earlier too met with an accident in Allahabad, after which the UP government had decided to sell it to the Mumbai firm. "In UP, the aircraft was used for official government purposes. It had suffered a minor accident in the state after which it was grounded for five years until 2015 before we purchased," another UY Aviation official added.
The husband of the captain of the flight also said that the test could have waited, which in turn would have saved several lives. P Kuthariya, the husband of Captain Maria Zuberi who died in the crash, said that it would have been a technical snag or bad weather that caused the crash.
"A test flight was aborted yesterday as the runway was filled with water. It was to be aborted again today, due to bad weather. The flight could have been avoided. Haste, if any, was wrong, lives could have been saved," he told NDTV. He said that he had even texted his wife Zuberi to ask if the team had landed, but saw the news on TV before he received any reply from her.
"It should be the weather, or a snag. The plane was damaged, they got it repaired. Got to know that pilots tried a lot to save the flight, they crashed before they could complete emergency landing," Kuthariya added.
Eyewitness accounts reveal terrifying details
People who were in the area and witnessed the crash said that the plane was already on fire when it landed with a loud thud and burst into flames.
"We were waiting for an autorickshaw when we saw a burning plane falling. It all happened so suddenly. Within seconds it crashed and was engulfed in smoke," two teens told the Times of India. "We heard three blasts one after the other."
Speaking of the mishap, another local resident told the Press Trust of India: "There was a very loud explosion. Smoke and flames engulfed the area in the 50-metre radius, leaving us clueless as to what had happened.
"We were having lunch when we heard the first explosion. We immediately rushed out ... saw a burning body near the crash spot. We tried to save the man but the flames had engulfed him completely so we found ourselves helpless."
Babasaheb Umap, a resident of Ghatkopar, revealed disturbing details of the crash and said that he saw the blade of the plane hit a pedestrian. But before anyone could act, the fuel from the aircraft is said to have spilled on him and he was engulfed in the fire.
"All I remember is seeing his brain and eyes pop out of his body and he was burning. But, before we could save him, there was fuel all around. We couldn't do anything, which is why we quickly called the police and the ambulance," Umap told Hindustan Times.
CCTV captures the crash
While many saw the plane comes crashing down at the construction site, the mishap was also caught on a CCTV camera. Even though a little hazy, one can see a plane coming down at a high speed from the left, before there is a huge explosion.