Plane crash kills 127 in Pakistan

Pakistan army troops sort through the wreckage of the Boeing 737 passenger plane that crashed on the outskirts of Islamabad on Friday.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Bhoja Air said all 127 people onboard one of its jets were killed Friday in a crash near Islamabad, the nation’s worst air disaster in almost two years.

The plane, a Boeing Co. 737-200 with 118 passengers and nine crew members, was on its way to Karachi and crashed on approach for landing, said Salman Tahir, a Bhoja Air spokesman.

The plane went down near the capital during thunderstorms, GEO TV said, citing aviation ministry officials it didn’t identify. One eyewitness said the plane was on fire in midair before the crash, Geo News reported.

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari ordered a probe into the accident, according to a statement from his office. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 6:40 p.m. local time, GEO TV reported.

Parts of the fuselage, a door and at least one body of a woman facedown and dressed in a full-body veil were shown in GEO TV footage aired by CNN.

In July 2010, an Airbus SAS jetliner crashed into a rain- soaked hillside at Islamabad, killing all 152 people onboard in the nation’s deadliest air disaster. Two other accidents in the same year killed 33 more, according to AviationSafety Network’s website.

The 737-200 that crashed was at least 24 years old because Boeing’s last delivery of that model was in 1988, according to the Chicago-based planemaker’s website.

Boeing said it was prepared to send technical experts to assist in the crash investigation, as it commonly does when there is an incident involving a plane it made.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates air crashes, is gathering information about the accident and “opening up a channel of communication with the folks in Pakistan,” said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the agency. The NTSB doesn’t yet know its level of involvement, he said.

The loss of the jet leaves Bhoja Air with three aircraft: two 737-200s and one 737-400, Tahir said. Boeing stopped making the 737-400 in 2000.

Bhoja Air, based in Karachi, started operations in November 1993 by leasing a Boeing 737-200 plane and connecting Pakistani cities including Lahore and Quetta, according to the airline’s website. The carrier shut down in 2000 because of financial difficulties and re-started operations last month, Tahir said.