A 26-year-old charter aircraft, on its way to a landing at Juhu airport during a test flight, crashed into open space near a construction site in the crowded Mumbai suburb of Ghatkopar on Thursday afternoon, killing all four crew members and a labourer on the ground.
Had the King Air C90 aircraft, which appeared to have lost control when it was around 700 feet over the ground, plunged into any of the highrises in the surroundings, it would have been a major tragedy.
Both pilots, Capt Pradeep Rajput and Capt Maria Zuberi, along with aircraft maintenance engineer Surabhi Gupta and junior technician Manish Pandey died on the spot. A construction labourer, Govind Dubey, was killed in the fire that broke out when the jet fuel tank exploded.
At least 35 workers, who were on a lunch break in the basement of the under-construction building, had a lucky escape.
Two of the labourers who were on the ground floor were injured. The aircraft, which was on its first flight after being grounded for around nine years, is suspected to have crashed due to mechanical failure.
The pilots gave out no distress message or "Mayday" call to Mumbai airport's air traffic controller. Around 1.10 pm, onlookers along Jivdaya lane saw the plane coming down engulfed in flames.
"We were waiting for an autorickshaw when we saw a burning plane falling. It all happened so suddenly. Within seconds it crashed and was engulfed in smoke," said Nami and Malay Shah, two teens who live nearby.