Istanbul prosecutor to investigate pilots after deadly plane crash


Istanbul - By Anindita Ramaswamy and Ergin Hava - Istanbul's prosecutor will investigate two injured pilots for negligence after their plane skidded off a runway and broke apart as it landed in bad weather, killing three people.

They will be probed for "causing the death and injury of more than one person by negligence," state news agency Anadolu reported on Thursday.

Turkish budget airline Pegasus crash-landed in Istanbul on Wednesday amidst roaring winds and heavy rains from Izmir's Adnan Menderes Airport, on Turkey's Aegean coast.
Prosecutors were separately investigating if pilot error, the condition of the runway and the plane or the weather were to blame for the accident, Anadolu said.
They also questioned two control tower employees and two airport workers, it added.
The plane slid some 50-60 metres in the direction of a highway and then plunged 30-40 metres into a ditch, eventually landing in a field further on.
Broadcast footage showed the aircraft split in three. The nose was completely smashed, the tail had broken and parts of the fuselage were shattered.
The chief prosecutor's office ordered blood samples to be taken from the pilots, who are currently in hospital, to check for alcohol and drugs. They will testify as "suspects" once they recover, Anadolu said.
The captain was slightly injured, but the co-pilot was listed in severe condition.
There were 183 people onboard: 175 passengers and two babies, plus four flight attendants and two pilots. Three women died, and the other 180 were hospitalized.
Flights resumed at Sabiha Gokcen Airport, on Istanbul's Asian side, at 4 am (0100 GMT) on Thursday.
"All our pilots are encouraged not to take risks ... bypass if they see a risk and continue to the alternative airport if necessary," said Pegasus chief executive Mehmet Nane.
He emphasized that Pegasus' safety score was above European Union standards.
In his first public comments, Nane broke down repeatedly, his voice quivering, as he said Pegasus was prepared to take responsibility for the accident.
Of the 180 injured who were sent to 23 hospitals, 56 were discharged, he said.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said the passengers included 22 foreign nationals from 13 countries, citing the airline, but didn't provide further details.
Anadolu reported there were four Chinese nationals and three Iraqis among the injured.
A day before the crash, Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turan had acknowledged poor infrastructure at Sabiha Gokcen, saying the airport's only runway "is very tired."
"There is maintenance work on the runway every night when there are no flights," he told reporters in Ankara.
Istanbul's main international airport off the Black Sea was inaugurated in October 2018, and aims to become the world's largest.
Nane told reporters that the plane's black box was handed over to the authorities.
The average age of the Pegasus fleet is 5.3 years with "high technical reliability," he said.
"Such incidents occur as a result of several factors combined, not only one reason," Nane added.


Thursday, February 6th 2020
By Anindita Ramaswamy and Ergin Hava

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