Indian Airlines crash kills 89

By V.C. BHASKARAN  |  Feb. 14, 1990
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BANGALORE, India -- An Indian Airlines Airbus carrying 146 passengers and crew crashed Wednesday as it approached the Bangalore airport in southern India, killing 89 people, an airlines official said.

Fifty-seven people survived the 1:10 p.m. crash of flight IC605 and were taken to two nearby hospitals for treatment, the official said.

The airline official said the pilot, Capt. S.S. Gopuskar, and co-pilot A.E. Fernandes were feared dead because their names were not on the list of injured issued by the hospitals.

Many survivors suffered third-degree burns and were in serious condition, although at least three passengers escaped with only minor injuries, doctors at Bangalore's Military Hospital said.

The flight, which originated in the western port city of Bombay and was on its way to Madurai via Bangalore, was about an hour behind schedule when it departed Bombay at 11:30 a.m., the official said.

The airline official said the Airbus AB-320 -- which was new and had been in use by Indian Airlines only a few months -- caught fire before it crashed near the village of Challaghtta, not far from the Bangalore airport, 1,085 miles south of New Delhi.

But witnesses said the plane's wheels hit an embankment near the village, causing the aircraft to catch fire and crash near the airport.

Firefighters on 20 fire trucks battled the fire that raced through the aircraft for about two hours, the official said.

State-run television coverage showed the plane was largely devastated, with the wings and tail section the only recognizable part of the aircraft.

Hundreds of curious people gathered to watch firemen pump water onto the smoldering wreckage and rescue workers search for the victims.

Parts of the airbus were scattered over a wide area.

A police official at the site said it appeared all the passengers sitting in the front section of the aircraft were killed. Most of the survivors had been in the rear section, he said.

The airline official said 139 passengers -- including 17 foreigners -- and a crew of seven were aboard the plane. At least two of the five air hostesses survived, he said.

At Air Force Command Hospital in Bangalore, survivors were stunned and confused.

One man suffering from burns and shock kept asking for his mother, who had been traveling with him. She was among the dead.

In another part of the hospital, three children, none more than 5 years old, were crying for their parents. The couple was still missing following the crash.

Several survivors praised one air hostess for rescuing several victims trapped in the rear of the aircraft. She was overcome by smoke and was being treated for shock at the hospital, a doctor said.

Civil Aviation Minister Arif Mohammad Khan and other senior officials arrived in Bangalore from New Delhi to view the crash site. A team of experts from the Airbus Industrie Consortium in Toulouse, France, left for Bangalore to assist in the inquiry into the crash, company officials said.

Indian Airlines has ordered 31 of the A-320s, 14 of which have been delivered. The A-320 ws first certified for flight in February 1988.

An Air France Airbus A-320 crashed June 26, 1988, at an airshow at Mulhouse, France, killing three people and injuring 50 others. The initial investigative report blamed pilot error.

But last month a French investigating magistrate re-opened the investigation and ordered a second opinion after allegations of evidence-tampering.

Wednesday's crash was the first air disaster for Indian Airlines since Oct. 19, 1988, when a Boeing 737 crashed near the western Gujarat state capital of Ahmedabad, killing 124 passengers and all six crew.

The government-run Indian Airlines has been plagued by frequent strikes by engineers, who contend they are not adquately trained to handle the Airbus planes.

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