MUMBAI: Five people have died after a 12 seater chartered plane owned by UY Aviation crashed at an under construction building near the telephone exchange at Sarvoday Nagar area of Ghatkopar (West) in Mumbai on Thursday. The ill-fated VT-UPZ, KING AIR C90 plane was on a test flight from Juhu aerodrome. It crashed at around 1.30 pm. The pilot, two engineers, a technician on board of the ill-fated plane and a pedestrian died in the crash, said aviation regulator DGCA in a statement.
Charred bodies of Pilot Captain Maria Kuber, Co-Pilot Captain Pradeep Rajput, engineer Surbhi and technicians Manish Pande have been recovered. A pedestrian Govind Pandit, too died in the accident, while another bystander Mahesh Kumar Nishabd (21) was injured, police said. All the bodies and the injured persons were taken to Rajawadi hospital, police sources said. Black box of the aircraft too has been recovered and the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) shall now investigate it, authorities have said.
There were three blasts as the plane came crashing down and hit the trees at the construction site and within minutes the crash site was engulfed in flames, locals who witnessed the crash have said. Generally around 40-50 labours work at the construction site where the plane crashed. It was only due to the time 1 to 2 pm being their lunch-brake their lives were saved. Had the crash happened a few minutes earlier, or sometime later, the death toll would have been much higher, the locals said.
The area is densely populated and also has several 10-15 storied buildings. However, the pilot seems to have steered the plane to cause least loss of lives, the eyewitnesses said. Teams of DGCA, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), fire brigade and Mumbai police reached the site immediately after the crash at around Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) shall conduct a deep inquiry into the accident, authorities said.
"The site of the plane crash lies in the funnel area of the main runway of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Mumbai International Airport," said local MLA Ram Kadam. While local MP Kirit Somaiya, who rushed to the crash site immediately expressed concern over the plane was being test flown at a densely populated area like Mumbai which also happens to have heaviest air traffic.
"I shall raise the issue during parliamentary session whether a plane that has come here for repairing should be tested in areas like Mumbai," he said. Mandar Bharde of MAB aviation said that primary guess suggests technical error to be the cause of the crash. "This was a two-engine plane and the crash landing suggests that both the engines might have failed," Bharde said adding that this kind of planes is widely used in India. "The plane has good credentials and at least 20-22 aircraft of this kind are in use across India currently," he said.
Deceased pilot Mariya Zuberi's husband Adv Prabhat, has demanded a probe into why the aircraft was allowed to take off in even while the weather was not clear. The aircraft was ordered to be flown despite unsuitable weather conditions, he alleged saying that Marya had spoken to him over the phone before the aircraft took off.
Parts of the crashed plane bore logo of Uttar Pradesh government. The aircraft is learnt to have been sold by the UP government to UY Aviation in 2014. However, it couldn't be confirmed whether the plane was sold after its life was over. Sources said that the plane was brought to Mumbai for repairs and was on test flight after repairs. Sources also claimed that the plane was not in use after it was sold by the UP government and had not been flown for past 3-4 years, citing it as a likely cause of the problem.