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MUMBAI: The Air India Express Calicut accident site was not secured and evidence may have been displaced, tampered with and destroyed, said Capt Amit Singh, an air safety expert, in a letter sent to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) this week. He based his observation on photographs and videos shot by the media at the crash site, about three hours after the accident.
On August 7, an AIX aircraft from Dubai overshot the Calicut runway on landing and dropped off the table-top runway, killing 18 people, including both the pilots.
The video showed a person dressed in military fatigues positioned outside the aircraft cockpit. He points to something inside the cockpit, while another person, who is inside the cockpit, hands over what appears to be a document, to the person outside, who in turn, hands over the document to a third person, said the letter, sent to the MoCA secretary, seeking a probe into the matter. “It might be a key evidence. A judicial probe must be initiated to carry out an unbiased investigation,’’ said Capt Singh.
Speaking to TOI, Capt Singh said that he spoke to the media channels concerned and found out that the said clip was shot at 10.37pm, about three hours after the crash. The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) team reached Calicut only at 5am the next day.
The photographs “undoubtedly capture a scene of alleged tampering and destruction of evidence from the aircraft cockpit”, he said . If indeed that is what has happened, then the act, considered criminal in nature, is punishable under the Indian Penal Code, he said.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) procedures manual 2012 details the procedure for securing evidence on site (4.1.4). It says that the officer in-charge of the aerodrome closest to the site of accident shall assist in coordination with local police authorities and shall take all reasonable measures to protect the evidence until the arrival of the officer of AAIB or any other authorised person. It adds that the assistance of civil authorities, particularly that of local police, is also necessary to ensure that vital evidence is not lost.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Doc. 9756 Part II states that “securing the occurrence site, aircraft, wreckage and other equipment involved to ensure their preservation, including protection against further damage, and the deterioration or disappearance of essential evidence due to theft, displacement or improper handling of the wreckage” should be accomplished without delay.

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