Sabotage ruled out as Punjab plane crash probe begins

October 30th, 2008 - 9:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Ludhiana, Oct 30 (IANS) Forensic experts Thursday ruled out any sabotage in the six-seater King Air C-90 aircraft of the Punjab government that crashed near Sahnewal airport, killing two experienced pilots.After collecting evidence from the crash site at the Thapar agro mill in Jugiana village near Sahnewal airport, 20 km from here, forensic experts from the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (CFSL) in Chandigarh Thursday said that the plane did not crash because of sabotage.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Thursday started its own independent probe into the crash.

A two-member probe committee picked up evidence about the crash and the black box (cockpit voice recorder) of the aircraft. The committee will submit its report within three months.

Two pilots, Dalip Kataria and Manjit Singh Khokhar, were killed in the crash Wednesday.

The aircraft, which was with the Punjab government since 1982, was repaired in the last few weeks and cleared for flying by the DGCA three weeks ago.

Pilot Khokhar, who flew the plane from Mumbai to Chandigarh after repairs Tuesday, recently told his sister that the aircraft was in a bad shape and could crash any time.

The plane was on a trial flight Wednesday from Chandigarh to Sahnewal. It was to be cleared by aviation experts for VIP duties, including flying Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, in the next few days.

Forensic experts searched for evidence to see if any sabotage was done to the aircraft since it was to be used for VIP duties.

The pilots of the ill-fated plane did not send any distress signal to the control tower at Sahnewal before the plane crashed. This led investigators to explore the sabotage angle.

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