A Turkish cargo plane operated by ACT Airlines (trading as MyCargo Airlines) has crashed in the middle of a village in Dacha-Suu, which is located on the outskirts of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Reports state that at least 37 people have been killed in the accident that occurred at 01:31 GMT as the plane came in to land in foggy weather at the nearby Manas airport for a stopover en route from Hong Kong to Istanbul.
BBC reports that the Boeing 747-400, with flight number TK6491, was operated by the Istanbul-based cargo airline and had a crew of four. The remaining 33 casualties were from the village where at least 15 buildings were hit and included entire members of families. Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev cancelled a visit to China once the news of the crash came out and has declared a day of mourning.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, reported that the 14-year-old Turkish cargo plane registered as TC-MCL was operated by ACT Airlines Inc., which is 49 percent owned by China’s HNA Group, and that a Turkish Airlines spokesperson had denied earlier reports stating that the downed aircraft was owned by them. On the other hand, ACT declined to comment on other suggestions that the Turkish cargo plane was carrying freight on behalf of the bigger national airline.
According to FOX News, so far, 15 victims, including five children, had been identified by Monday evening. Another 15 people, including six children, had also been hospitalized after suffering injuries in the disaster. The Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Ministry said 23 out of the village’s 43 houses had been destroyed and that several dozens of them had been near the immediate vicinity of the airport’s runway.
One of the four pilots of the Turkish cargo plane, presumed to be Kazim Ondul, was reportedly seen climbing out of the wreckage and wandering amid the plane’s debris but died after being taken to hospital. The body of the second pilot, who was identified as Ibrahim Gurcan Diranci, a former military airman, has also been identified. The body of one pilot still remains unaccounted for, according to the Daily Mail Online. Kyrgyz authorities are already claiming the pilots were to blame for the accident, saying it was caused by “pilot error” because other aircraft had landed before the doomed plane, although no official investigation has started yet.
Witnesses at the wreckage site said looters had descended on the Kyrgyzstan scene before emergency services arrived. One man was later arrested with two kettles hidden under his coat.
By Liku Zelleke