Relatives grieve as they wait for word on the collection of the remains of victims of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash at PIMS hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Caren Firouz
By Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Asad Hashim
ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) Pakistan on Thursday mourned the 47 victims of its deadliest plane crash in four years, including a famed rock star-turned-Muslim evangelist, as officials sought to pinpoint the cause of the disaster.
Engine trouble was initially believed responsible, but many questions remain, stirring new worries about the safety record of money-losing state carrier Pakistani International Airlines.
The ATR-42 aircraft involved in the crash had undergone regular maintenance, including an "A-check" certification in October, said airline chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol.
"I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound aircraft," Saigol said.
The aircraft appeared to have suffered a failure in one of its two turboprop engines just before the crash, he added, but this would have to be confirmed by an investigation.
"I think there was no technical error or human error," Saigol told a news conference late on Wednesday. "Obviously there will be a proper investigation."
Grief erupted online soon after flight PK661 smashed into the side of a mountain near the town of Havelian, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, on Wednesday, after taking off from the mountain resort region of Chitral.
It crashed just 50 km (31 miles) short of its destination, the international airport in Islamabad, the capital.
A PIA spokesman said the pilot, who issued a "mayday" emergency call before the crash, may have prevented an even bigger catastrophe by manoeuvring the plane away from populated areas.
"It seems that the pilot directed it away from people's homes. Otherwise there could have been even more damage," Daniyal Gillani told Reuters outside a morgue at an Islamabad hospital where bodies were being identified.
Stunned relatives gathered there, some weeping quietly, others besieging officials with questions.
"What can I tell you?" said Raja Amir, as he waited for his mother's remains. "I don't know what we will get of her. There is still another hell to go through."