'He was alive... He asked me to save him'

KARACHI • Mr Raja Amjad was out for an afternoon drive in Karachi when he was blindsided by a crashing plane and a body landing on his car.

The body came from Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK8303, which ploughed into buildings in a crowded Karachi neighbourhood on Friday, exploding upon impact.

As Mr Amjad jumped out from his vehicle, he looked up to see another passenger dangling from the plane's emergency exit, calling for help.

"He was alive. He was speaking. He asked me to save him. I forcefully tried to pull him out, but his legs were badly stuck in the emergency door," Mr Amjad told AFP, saying that he called the emergency services.

The aircraft's wings had sliced through roofs as the fuselage smashed into pieces, while the fire from the crash spread to nearby homes close to the bustling port city's airport.

"I heard a blast. Immediately, I ran outside. There were clouds of smoke. There was fire," said resident Najeeb Ur Rehman.

Another resident, 14-year-old Hassan, said: "I was coming from the mosque when I saw the plane tilting on one side. It was so low that the walls of my house were trembling."

The alleyway at the centre of the crash was littered with debris from the plane's cabin, along with personal items from luggage scattered over vehicles and motorbikes parked in front of homes.

Firefighter Sarfraz Ahmed said several bodies still had their seat belts fastened. Others were wearing oxygen masks, according to another rescue official.

After spending hours working in the scorching heat on Friday, the rescuers and security forces paused for a few minutes to break their Ramadan fast, sipping water and nibbling on fruit at dusk while the call to prayer blared, before heading back to the crash site.

As night fell over the neighbourhood, cranes hoisted lights over the scene, allowing rescue teams to continue combing through the wreckage.

Pakistanis across the country were preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Aidilfitri - a time when families gather and feast for days after a month of fasting.

Mr Mudassar Ahmed, whose home was just blocks from the crash site, said this year's festival, which had already become meaningless because of the coronavirus pandemic, "has become a tragedy for all of us, not only the relatives of the victims".


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'He was alive... He asked me to save him'. Subscribe