Pakistan to use DNA tests to identify plane crash victims

The plane was carrying 47 people including Pakistani celebrity-turned-Islamic preacher Junaid Jamshed and three foreigners.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Three foreigners – two Austrians and a Chinese national – were also among the passengers.

The bodies of 47 people who died in a plane crash in Pakistan's mountainous north on Wednesday will be taken to Islamabad for DNA testing and identification.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight crashed into a hillside after one of its two turboprop engines failed while travelling from the city of Chitral to the capital Islamabad, bursting into flames and killing everyone on board.

The domestic Flight PK-661 carried 42 passengers and five crew members. Earlier reports had put the number on board as 48.

Rescue crew member holds the black box at the crash site in the mountainous area of Havelian in northern Pakistan. (Reuters)

Pakistani celebrity-turned-Islamic preacher Junaid Jamshed, his wife, and Chitral city Deputy Commissioner Osama Warraich were among the passengers. 

Three foreigners – two Austrians and a Chinese national – were also on board the plane.

"The dead bodies will be taken to Islamabad in helicopters (...) for DNA testing and identification," said Muhammad Abbas, a hospital official at Ayub Medical Complex in the northern garrison town of Abbottabad.

"Not one body was intact," he said.

Rescuers, including hundreds of villagers, had over night pulled the remains from the wreckage of the aircraft, parts of which were found hundreds of metres away from the main site in the Abbottabad district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan army troops and helicopters also participated in the rescue operation that was hindered by the rugged terrain.

"The bodies were burnt so badly we could not recognise whether they were women or men," a villager in his thirties, who declined to give his name, told AFP.

We put into sacks whatever we could find... and carried them down to the ambulance.

The aircraft issued a "mayday call" at 4:14 pm (1114 GMT) on Wednesday before losing radar contact and crashing.

It crashed just 50 kilometres (31 miles) short of its destination, Benazir International Airport in Islamabad.

PIA chairman Azam Saigol said the nine-year-old plane was deemed to be "technically sound" when it last underwent a detailed inspection in October.

"Our focus now is to retrieve all the dead bodies," he added, vowing a full investigation into Flight PK-661.

Tributes pour in for Junaid Jamshed

Junaid Jamshed’s fans from around the world took to social media sites to express their shock and grief.

Jamshed was the former lead singer for Vital Signs, one of Pakistan's first and most successful rock and pop bands of the 1990s.

He abandoned his musical career in 2001 to become an Islamic preacher with the Tableeghi Jamaat group.

Wednesday's crash was the fourth deadliest on Pakistani soil. The country's deadliest air disaster was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 crashed into the hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board.

TRTWorld and agencies