Pakistani Airplane Crashes En Route To Islamabad With Nearly Fifty Passengers Aboard, Pop Star Junaid Jamshed Among Those Killed

A Pakistan International Airlines plane flying to Islamabad crashed on Wednesday with dozens of passengers on board. The small ATR-42 twin-turbo propeller plane is used for short regional flights, and officials are reporting that it is unlikely that there will be survivors.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif released an official statement, according to the Globe and Mail, expressing his “deep grief and sorrow” over the loss of the airplane passengers.

“The entire nation is deeply saddened over today’s unfortunate crash and shares the grief of the families who lost their dear ones.”

Taj Muhammad Khan told Reuters that, “All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered, the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire.”

Images of the crash have surfaced on Twitter as Pakistanis gather in the streets awaiting news from the wreckage. 500 rescuers including doctors, nurses and paramedics arrived on the scene, and so far 36 bodies have been recovered from the crash, the Telegraph reports. Among the passengers were two small children. Local residents also converged to offer assistance, sifting through the debris at the crash site and covering bodies. A special team is collecting DNA samples in order to identify the bodies.

The plane, PK661, was en route from Chitral when it lost contact with ground control. A local police officer told Al Jazeera that the plane had crashed and was in flames, and shortly thereafter the flight’s manifest was released to the public. While it is suspected that the cause of the crash was engine failure, the black box has yet to be recovered.

Among the passengers was pop star Junaid Jamshed. As reported by the Independent, Jamshed retired from fame fifteen years ago to dedicate his life to preaching Islam.

[Image by B.K. Bangash/AP Images]

As recounted in a profile of the singer-turned-cleric published by the Birmingham Mail, Junaid Jamshed was most famous for being the iconic front man of Pakistan’s first boy band, Vital Signs. The band’s smash hit “Dil Dil Pakistan” was so popular that it became an unofficial Pakistani national anthem. Before becoming a professional musician, Jamshed studied engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore and briefly worked as a civil contractor. He was discovered while playing music at university campuses. In 1994 he launched a successful solo career and released several albums before he retired from the spotlight.

As a spiritual leader, Jamshed inspired those around him and the outpouring of grief over his loss has been overwhelming. Fans and students of Jamshed took to Twitter to express their sadness over his death in the Pakistan International Airlines crash.

As reported by AFP, Pakistan has had devastating air disasters before, most recently in 2015 when two helicopters crashed within months of each other. In 2010 an Airbus 312 flying from Karachi to Islamabad crashed into the hilly terrain, not unlike today’s Pakistan International Airlines crash. All 152 passengers on board were killed. In 1992 a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A300 crashed near Kathmandu killing 167 passengers, making it the deadliest plane crash in Pakistani history.

[Image by Muhammad Asim/AP Images]

This recent crash has led to the reemergence of a scathing report of Pakistan International Airlines. Printed in 2014, the article by American data scientist Nate Silver analyzed whether airlines that have had previous crashes are more likely to crash again. Using data from the Aviation Safety Network, Silver examined not only actual crashes but also “near misses”. His conclusion was that the two airlines in the world that performed the worst in terms of “near misses” were Pakistan International Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, both of which had a “persistently high rate of incidents“. The EU even temporarily banned Pakistan International Airlines because of their shoddy safety record in 2007.

While the flights were gradually reinstated, this most recent Pakistan International Airlines crash is raising old questions about “near misses” as Pakistanis mourn the loss of a national icon, and families wait for their loved ones to be recovered.

[Featured Image by B.K. Bangash/AP Images]

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