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Airbus experts probe plane crash that killed 97 in Pakistan

Pakistan announced Tuesday that Airbus experts have opened a probe into last week’s plane crash that killed 97 people when an Airbus A320 went down in a crowded neighborhood near the airport in the port city of Karachi.

Initial reports have said the Pakistan International Airlines jet crashed after an apparent engine failure. Pakistani aviation authorities said Tuesday they have shared their initial findings with the visiting 11-member team from the European plane maker.

The Airbus experts and engineers are also to visit the crash site, according to Abdul Hafeez, a spokesman for PIA. “We are providing all possible assistance to the technical experts of Airbus,” he said.

Pakistan army soldiers stand beside the heavy machinery park on a street leading to the site of a plane crash, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, May 24, 2020. A passenger plane belonging to state-run Pakistan International Airlines carrying passengers and crew crashed Friday near the southern port city of Karachi. (AP PhotoFareed Khan)

Only two people on board survived the crash, including Zafar Masood, a bank executive.

Flight PK-8303 took off from the eastern city of Lahore and crashed on Friday while trying to land at the Karachi airport, Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar said.

On the ground, 18 homes were damaged but no one was killed, mainly because the local residents were gathered at nearby mosques at the time, officials had said. Eight people on the ground were injured.

Family members and relatives of Simon Eric, who died in the crash of a state-run Pakistan International Airlines plane on Friday, mourn during his funeral in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, May 25, 2020. (AP PhotoFareed Khan)

So far, Pakistan has handed over 41 bodies to their families, Hafeez said, adding that DNA tests were underway to identify the remains of the other victims.

The plane made failed attempts to land at the Karachi airport before the crash. Authorities found the plane's black box and have been guarding the crash site to facilitate the probe. The plane last received a government check last November. PIA’s chief engineer signed a separate certificate on April 28, confirming all maintenance had been conducted. Airbus has said the two-engine plane had logged 47,100 flight hours and 25,860 flights as of last Friday.

The crash took place days after Pakistan resumed domestic flights ahead of Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Many of the passengers aboard the flight were families returning home for the holiday.

Christians hold candles during a prayer service for the victims of a plane crash, at St. Johan Cathedral in Peshawar, Pakistan, Saturday, May 23, 2020. A Pakistan International Airlines carrying passengers and crew has crashed near the southern port city of Karachi on Friday. (AP PhotoMuhammad Sajjad)

Pakistan has been in a countrywide lockdown since mid-March because of the virus, and when flights resumed last week, every other seat was left vacant to promote social distancing. Authorities have reported over 57,700 cases of the virus, including 1,197 deaths.

Relatives visit with Mohammad Zubair, a passenger who survived a plane crash, at his home in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 23, 2020. When the plane jolted violently, Zubair thought it was turbulence. Then the pilot came on the intercom to warn that the landing could be "troublesome." Moments later, the Pakistan International Airlines flight crashed into a crowded neighborhood near Karachi's international airport. (AP PhotoFareed Khan)

In this photo released by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, provincial governor Imran Ismail, center in blue coat, and Pakistan's aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar, center in black waistcoat, visit the site of Friday's plane crash, in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 23, 2020. A passenger plane belonging to state-run Pakistan International Airlines carrying passengers and crew crashed Friday near the southern port city of Karachi. (Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority via AP)

People carry the casket of the victims of Friday's plane crash for funeral prayers in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 23, 2020. An aviation official says a passenger plane belonging to state-run Pakistan International Airlines carrying passengers and crew has crashed near the southern port city of Karachi. (AP PhotoFareed Khan)

Pakistan army soldiers and police commandos stand guard while they cordon off a street leading to the site of a plane crash, in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 23, 2020. A passenger plane carrying nearly 100 passengers crashed in a crowded neighborhood near the airport in Karachi. (AP PhotoFareed Khan)

A woman reacts after identifying a body of her family member, who was killed in the Friday's plane crash, at a morgue in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 23, 2020. An aviation official says a passenger plane belonging to state-run Pakistan International Airlines carrying passengers and crew has crashed near the southern port city of Karachi. (AP PhotoFareed Khan)