Soldiers and police stood at attention alongside thousands of people as they watched the victims of Wednesday's (15 November) air crash at Colombo airport being lowered into mass graves in Indonesia.
Soldiers and police stood at attention alongside thousands of people as they watched the victims of Wednesday's (15 November) air crash at Colombo airport being lowered into mass graves in Indonesia. Controversy still clouds the cause behind the crash which claimed the lives of nearly two-hundred Moslem pilgrims returning to Indonesia from Mecca.
The Icelandic Airways LC-8, carrying 249 Moslem pilgrims and 13 crew crashed into a coconut plantation while trying to land at Colombo airport in a thunder storm on Thursday (16 November) night, killing 202 people on board.
The carter flight was carrying moslem pilgrims returning from Jeddah, mostly bound for Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan (Borneo).
The plane plunged down four miles short of the Colombo's Katunayake airport runway, ploughing through coconut palms and a hut before bursting into flames.
Grey smoke still drifted from the carried and twisted wreck of the jet plane more than 12 hours after it plunged to earth.
Airport officials said the DC-8 got permission to land as it circled. The storm was abating and they had no immediate clue as to why it then suddenly plunged to the ground, just 26 seconds short of its scheduled touch-down time.
Eyewitness reported a loud explosion as the plane ripped apart in three large sections on hitting the ground.
Police and military rushed to the site and found most of the 60-odd survivors, screaming the stumbling in the darkness. Many were taken to hospital and six were later reported in critical state.
The pilgrim route to hecca has been hit by several air disasters in the past decade and 191 people died in a similar crash of a chartered aircraft in Colombo in December 1974.
In March 1969 a United Arab Airlines aircraft crashed while taking off from Egypt's Aswan airports, killing 96 pilgrims and seven crew.
And in January 1973 a Royal Jordanian Airlines chartered jet crashed on landing at Kano Airport in Northern Nigeria, killing some 176 pilgrims and crew were killed.
SYNOPSIS: According to officials in Colombo four other planes had safely taken off and landed immediately before the Icelandic Airways DC-8 went down. They say air traffic controllers had warned the pilot of the doomed plane he was flying too low. Moments later it crashed into a coconut plantation, while preparing to land. Grey smoke was still drifting across the wreckage more than twelve hours after the plane plunged to earth.
The chartered flight was carrying pil??ims home from Mecca. All of the ??? passengers on board were believed to have been Indonesian. It also carried 13 crew members. Police say only one stewardess survived. Only 38 of the more than 200 dead in the crash could be identified, and Indonesia's Government ordered a mass burial and three days of national mourning. Sri Lanka also declared a day of mourning. Two Indonesian Air Force planes arrived in Sri Lanka on Friday (17 November) to carry home the dead.
A survivor of the crash said all he could remember was hearing an ear-splitting noise, followed by a ball of fire and then people shouting for help all around him.
Sixty survivors were rushed to Negombo Hospital. Almost half of them have died. Meanwhile the investigation into why the plane went down is continuing. Indonesia had flown in its own team to investigate. And in Sri Lanka, the probe has become a political issue. Opposition leaders demanded that the government investigate reports of faulty equipment at Colombo airport. The government says the facilities were working well at the time of the crash. This is one of several air disasters along the pilgrim route to Mecca. In 1974 191 people died when another chartered pilgrim flight crashed at Colombo. In 1969, 96 pilgrims died when a jet crashed in Egypt, and in 1973, 176 died in a crash in northern Nigeria.