Airbus experts probe plane crash that killed 97 in Pakistan

Initial reports have said the Pakistan International Airlines jet crashed after an apparent engine failure

Relatives comfort each other as they mourn the death of Simon Eric, who was killed in a plane crash, during his burial at the Christian's Gora Cemetery in Karachi, Pakistan May 25, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Pakistan announced on Tuesday that Airbus experts have opened an investigation into last week's plane crash that killed 97 people when an Airbus A320 went down in a crowded neighbourhood near the airport in the port city of Karachi.

Early reports said the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet crashed after apparent engine failure. Pakistani aviation authorities said they have shared their initial findings with the visiting 11-member team from the European plane maker.

The Airbus experts and engineers were also to visit the crash site, according to Abdul Hafeez, a spokesman for PIA. "We are providing all possible assistance to the technical experts of Airbus," he said.

Two people survived the crash, including Zafar Masood, a bank executive.

Flight PK-8303 took off from the eastern city of Lahore and crashed while trying to land at the Karachi airport, Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said.

Eighteen homes were damaged but no one was killed, mainly because residents were gathered at nearby mosques at the time, officials had said. Eight people on the ground were injured.

So far, Pakistan has returned 41 bodies to their families, Mr Hafeez said, adding that DNA tests to identify the remains of the other victims were under way.

The plane made failed attempts to land at the airport before the crash. Authorities found its black box and have been guarding the crash site. The plane's last government check was in November. PIA's chief engineer signed a separate certificate on April 28, confirming all maintenance had been conducted. Airbus has said the two-engine plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flights as of last Friday.

The crash happened days after Pakistan resumed domestic flights ahead of Eid Al Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Many of the passengers aboard the flight were families returning home for the holiday.

Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the virus, and when flights resumed last week, every other seat was left vacant to promote social distancing. Authorities have reported over 57,700 cases of the virus, including 1,197 deaths.