Two killed as naval plane crashes into Hyderabad building

Hyderabad, March 3 (IANS) An Indian Navy trainer aircraft crashed into a two-storied building in a densely populated locality during an air show here Wednesday, killing the pilot and his co-pilot and injuring four civilians on the ground.

Commander S.K. Maurya and Lt Commander Rahul Nair were killed when their HJT-16 Kiran Mk II trainer, built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, crashed minutes before noon in the Bowenpally locality near the old Begumpet Airport in the heart of the city.

The charred bodies of both the pilot and co-pilot were removed by defence personnel. ‘Four people on the ground were injured. They have been shifted to hospital,’ Hyderabad Police Commissioner A.K. Khan told reporters at the crash scene.

Thousands of people were enjoying the spectacle soon after the inaugural ceremony of India Aviation 2010, India’s international aviation exhibition and conference, when disaster struck, sending thick clouds of smoke into the air.

Some people were injured in the building, a part of which was badly damaged. The debris fell on a parked but empty car, crushing it.

‘Both pilots are dead. They did not eject from the plane. Probably there was no time, maybe they tried to ensure that there was no serious damage to civilian area. The fact is they are no more,’ Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters in Bhopal.

He added that it was premature to say what caused the crash. An inquiry has been ordered.

‘Sagar Pawan is our aerobatics team. It was during the last phase of the display that the aircraft went out of control and crashed into a building. What exactly went wrong, we will have to find out,’ he said.

The aircraft, part of the aerobatics team that uses four trainers, was unable to pull up from a dive and went into a spiral as the planes were breaking away from the formation and going in different directions.

In the audience were union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah as well as ambassadors of the US and France besides senior government officials.

At least 40 aircraft of national and international companies were parked at the airport for static display as part of the five-day event.

According to witnesses, the plane suddenly lost height and crashed into the mobile phone towers on top of the building. Some people claimed hearing a loud boom, after which the plane went down.

‘The aircraft which was diving had started turning upside down. I initially thought it to be a part of a manoeuvre but a few second later it crashed,’ said an eyewitness.

Residents of the eight flats in the building and surrounding houses were in a state of shock. At least two women were seen crying.

Said N. Ashok, who was in his house at the time: ‘I heard a loud noise and rushed out to see flames.’

Hyderabad district collector Navin Mittal said they were evacuating the building and nearby houses as the crash had weakened the structure. Police struggled to control the thousands who rushed to the scene in the densely populated area.

The paramilitary Rapid Action Force (RAF) had to be called in to control the crowd. Fire engines had a tough time in reaching the narrow lane, a few metres from the Begumpet airport wall.

Commercial operations at Begumpet were shifted two years ago to the new international airport that has come up at Shamshabad, about 30 km from the city. However, the airport is still in use by the defence services and for non-commercial operations like VIP flights.

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