Bangalore: Popular South Indian actress Soundarya died along with three others, including the pilot, after the aircraft carrying her for a BJP campaign in Andhra Pradesh crashed and exploded in flames just three minutes after it took off on city outskirts today.
The single-engine, four-seater Cessna-180 aircraft crashed near the agricultural university campus on the fringes of the Jakkur airfield, charring the bodies of the victims beyond recognition, police and Agni Aviation officials said.
The 32-year old actress who had made it big in the south Indian celluloid world, particularly in Telugu and Tamil films, pairing with superstars like Rajnikanth and Chiranjeevi, was flying to Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh.
Soundarya's brother Amarnath, BJP worker Ramesh Kadam and the pilot Capt. Joy Philips were the other victims.
The aircraft took off at 1105 hrs and crashed from 100 feet altitude before catching fire, Capt Arvind Sharma, Chief Executive Officer of "Agni Aviation", which owned the aircraft, said.
The Director General of Civil Aviation began a preliminary investigation into the crash.
"Nothing so far. We have not found anything so far to identify the cause of the crash", Director of Air Worthiness P P Kadambalithaya told reporters after visiting the crash site in the University of Agricultural Sciences campus, a few hundred yards from the Jakkur airstrip.
Sharma said the aircraft, purchased from Pondicherry-based Nexus Computers, had received the last airworthiness certificate in December and was due for the next one in June.
Hundreds of onlookers thronged the crash site on hearing the news of the demise of the popular actress. The charred bodies of the four victims remained in the mangled aircraft and were later sent for post mortem.
Fire engines, which rushed to the site within 15 minutes of the crash, took nearly 30 minutes to put out the fire that ignited within three minutes of the aircraft crashing.
A state government employee, who was the first to rush to the accident site received burn injuries on his hand, after he tried to pull out a victim from the mangled aircraft and "it exploded".
Chief Minister S M Krishna, Union Commerce Minister and BJP state in-charge Arun Jaitley, Karnataka BJP Unit president Ananth Kumar and top police officials visited the spot and consoled family members of the victims.