In his 20 years at Shahbad Mohammadpur, a village next to the BSF plane accident site, Rakesh Singh has seen countless aeroplanes fly from and to the Delhi airport. However, Tuesday marked the first time he saw one crash.
Mr. Singh was standing near a local shop close to the spot when he saw the plane clip a tree before spiralling down into the boundary wall of a sewage treatment plant in the airport compound. The crash left a 50-foot wide opening in the wall and extensively damaged a large sewage tank.
“I never expected to see something like this. I did not know how to react, so I began shouting for help,” Mr. Singh recalled later.
He said he could not gather the courage to pull out the occupants, as the aircraft burst into flames soon after hitting the ground.
However, the fire did not deter some labourers, who braved the flames, to pull out “half-charred” bodies from the aircraft.
The Fire Department said seven bodies were fished out from a large sewage tank — into which the plane crashed after hitting the wall — while three were found outside.
Yogesh, a teenager playing near the accident spot, said he saw the labourers pull out two persons from inside the aircraft.
“One man’s head was almost sliced off, while the other was missing a hand,” he added.
All the eyewitnesses The Hindu spoke to claimed they heard no cries for help from inside the aircraft, suggesting that the occupants were killed instantly.
Delhi Fire Services (DFS) Chief Fire Officer Santokh Singh said not a single occupant was alive when his men reached the spot.
“It took us close to three hours to fish out all the bodies from the sewage tank. I believe none of the deaths were caused by drowning — all were killed due to the impact of the crash,” said the officer, adding 21 fire tenders were used in the operation.
Though he claimed none of the bodies were charred, eyewitness accounts and mobile phone video footage tells a different story.
While the labourers were the first to rush to the victims’ aid, the aircraft’s debris left four of them injured.
“One woman was bleeding from the head and a man was struck on the head with a stone as the plane crashed into the wall. The two of them immediately collapsed,” added Yogesh.
The police downplayed their injuries as “minor” and stated that the four were admitted to a private hospital in Gurgaon.
Heena and Kasturi, who were walking on the road immediately next to the spot at that time, said they escaped without a scratch.
“We helped the injured labourers move to safety,” added Kasturi.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi and other VIPs were present at the accident site within two hours of the crash.
The airport police have registered a first information report pertaining to causing death by negligence and endangering the life or personal safety of others.