In a bizarre accident, a ground crew member with India’s state-owned airlines Air India died after he was sucked into the engine of a parked plane at Mumbai airport late Wednesday.
The employee died immediately, officials said. The freak accident occurred when the plane, with more than 100 passengers inside, was preparing for departure. The victim’s body was in “a very bad shape” said one airport employee. But authorities later confirmed that the dead man was Ravi Subramanian, an airline technician.
“We are deeply saddened and regret the tragic incident at Mumbai airport this evening where an Air India technician died in a mishap during pushback of flight AI 619,” said Ashwani Lohani, the managing director of Air India. “The incident is being investigated. Our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family.”
The accident involving Airbus 320 occurred around 9 p.m. local time at the T2 terminal in Mumbai, minutes before take-off for the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. It was not immediately clear how the technician came so perilously close to the aircraft at that time. No one is allowed to come close to an aircraft during the time of pushback.
Officials said only a probe can determine who was responsible for what appears to be negligence.
The accident is likely to revive the debate about India’s poor airline safety record, especially for its beleaguered state airline company. There have been many calls in recent years for the government to sell the bloated airline to a private company which can run it more efficiently.
According to a safety survey by a German think tank in 2013, Air India was rated as the world’s third-most unsafe commercial airline.
In 2015, Air India was rated 58th out of 60 airlines according to a safety ranking by the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Center.
In April this year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration upgraded India’s safety ranking, 14 months after it had downgraded safety to “category -II” because it did not comply with international standards. The audit had cited inadequate full-time flight operation inspectors, trained technical staff and poor regulatory oversight.
On Twitter, Indians expressed shock.