(ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan) — The remains of the 47 passengers and crew who were killed when a Pakistan International Airlines commuter crashed in the north of the country are being sent to Islamabad for identification, a hospital spokesman and the airline said Thursday.
Daniyal Gilani, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, confirmed that 42 passengers and five crew members were killed in Wednesday’s crash. Earlier, PIA had put the total at 48.
Junaid Sarwar, a hospital spokesman in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, said only five bodies had been identified as the remains of others were burned so badly that the National Database and Registration Authority could not identify them.
“We are sending body parts of all the passengers to Islamabad for DNA tests,” he said. Wednesday’s crash took place in a village 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad. The small twin-propeller aircraft was travelling from the city of Chitral to Islamabad when it crashed shortly after takeoff due to an engine fault.
PIA says the plane lost contact with the control tower prior to the crash.
The passengers included Junaid Jamshed, a famous singer who had become an Islamic preacher, according to PIA.
“There are no survivors. All passengers and members of crew are dead,” Azam Sehgal, the PIA chariman told a news conference at the Islamabad airport late Wednesday. He said the plane’s black box recorder had been found.
Sehgal said the pilot of plane told the control tower that an engine had developed a technical fault. Moments later he made a “mayday call” shortly before the plane disappeared.
Sehgal said it was unclear what caused the crash.
TV footage at the site of the crash showed debris from the plane. The footage showed villagers collecting the remains of the passengers and covering their bodies with cloths.
Altaf Hussain, a rescue worker who transported the remains of passengers in an ambulance, told the AP that the crash site smelled of burned flesh and oil, and that body parts were scattered everywhere.
“We collected the burned bones … and wrapped them in cloth,” he said.
Ambulance driver Duray Hussain said the remains were “beyond recognition.”
Pakistan’s air industry had had a mixed record recently. About 150 people were killed in a crash near Islamabad in 2010, and last year a military helicopter carrying several diplomats also crashed in the country’s north, killing eight people. And a Bhoja Air flight passenger plane crashed near Islamabad due to bad weather in 2012, killing all 127 people on board.
Ahmed reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Aqeel Ahmed in Mansehra, Pakistan, contributed to this report.