ISLAMABAD • The Pakistani plane carrying 47 people that crashed on Wednesday issued a mayday call before losing radar contact, the authorities said, as they began collecting DNA yesterday to identify the victims.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight smashed into a hillside in the northern part of the country after one of its two turboprop engines failed while travelling from the city of Chitral to the capital Islamabad, killing everyone on board.
Engine trouble was initially believed to be the cause, but many questions remain, stirring new worries about the safety record of the money-losing state carrier.
A PIA spokesman said the pilot may have manoeuvred the plane away from populated areas. "It seems that the pilot directed it away from people's homes. Otherwise there could have been even more damage," Mr Daniyal Gillani told Reuters outside a morgue at an Islamabad hospital where bodies were being identified.
Among the victims were a famed rock star-turned-Muslim evangelist, two infants and three foreigners.
The ATR-42 aircraft involved in the crash had undergone regular maintenance, including an "A-check" certification in October, said airline chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol.
"I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound aircraft. I think there was no technical error or human error," Mr Saigol told a news conference late on Wednesday. "Obviously there will be a proper investigation."
The airline confirmed recovery of the plane's black box flight recorder to the Geo News channel.
Relatives of the victims gathered at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, some weeping, others besieging officials with questions.
"What can I tell you?" said Mr Raja Amir, as he waited for his mother's remains. "I don't know what we will get of her. There is still another hell to go through."