Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday visited the Kozhikode airport, the site of one of the worst air disasters witnessed in Kerala, that has so far left 18 people including two pilots dead.

He reached the Kozhikode International Airport in Karipur earlier today to take stock of the status and implementation of relief measures on ground. In a tweet, the minister said that he will hold consultations with senior civil aviation officials and professionals on the tragic incident.

Speaking on the incident, Puri said that the aircraft was being captained and operated by one of the most experienced and distinguished commanders, Captain Deepak Sathe. He added that the pilot-in-command had landed on this airfield as many as 27 times, including this year.

The aviation minister also termed it fortunate that unlike the Mangaluru Airport accident that took place 10 years ago where the aircraft caught fire, here preventive action minimised the loss of lives.

In 2010, a Boeing 737 aircraft of Air India Express operating an incoming flight to Mangalore had overshot the runway while landing at the ‘table-top’ airport.

The pilots of the doomed aircraft tried to power-up the plane in an attempt to take-off before running out of tarmac.Unfortunately, the aircraft plunged into a valley below and exploded.

Hardeep Singh Puri has announced an interim relief of Rs 10 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh each to the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for those who suffered minor injuries.

He also informed that the Digital Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder of the ill-fated aircraft have been retrieved from the crash site. Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) is conducting probe, he added.

Earlier in the day, the minister had said that the pilot “must have tried to bring the flight to the end of tabletop airport’s runway where it skidded due to slippery conditions owing to monsoon”.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), in a statement said that the Air India Express flight landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 2,000 metres in heavy rain, but continued running till the end of runway, fell down the valley and broke into two pieces.

There were 174 passengers, 10 infants, 2 pilots and 4 cabin crew on board the aircraft.

All on board were evacuated after a nearly three-hour operation and a total of 149 injured have been admitted to hospitals in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. At least 22 people are said to be in a critical condition.

Officials from Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) AAIB and DGCA and top officials of Air India and Air India Express are at the Karipur airport to investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited the Kozhikode Medical College, where several passengers who were injured in the plane crash are admitted.