At least 19 people have reportedly died in a plane crash which occurred on Sunday, 6th November, in Tanzania. The Precious Air aircraft had been travelling from Tanzania’s largest city.
An ATR42-500 aircraft travelling to Bukoba airport crashed into Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, at 8.53 am (5.53 GMT) on Sunday morning. The airline has confirmed that there were 43 people on board the small plane, and of those, 24 survived the crash. The plane’s two pilots had initially survived the plane’s “crash landing” and had even managed to contact local officials from the cockpit; however, they were found dead once rescuers had reached them. Albert Chalamila, Kagera Regional Commissioner, confirmed the deaths of esteemed pilot Burundi Lubaga (who had been captaining for 20 years) and first officer Peter Odhiambo.
The two flight attendants, fortunately, survived the crash.
Kagera province police commander, William Mwampaghale, told Sky News journalists that Flight PW494 had been flying during storms and intense rain, before plunging into the lake’s shore at the end of Bukoba’s airport runway.
A desperate rescue mission
Nearby fishermen were first on the scene and made their way through the lake to get to those still inside the plane. The plane was almost entirely submerged by this point as rescue boats hurried to the wreckage. Individuals formed a human chain in an attempt to pull the passengers from the water. 26 were initially rescued and taken to the hospital. Footage also shows some onlookers using ropes to pull the plane closer to shore.
One of the survivors of the incident, Richard Komba, spoke to BBC of the deteriorating weather conditions, which forced the pilot to reroute before losing control. He went on to say, “Water then entered the plane, and those sitting near the front were covered by it. I was in the back seat, and most of us in the back of the plane struggled to get out.”
Abdul Nuri had been at the airport as he waited for the return flight to Dar es Salaam when we witnessed the tragic event. He told BBC, “We were really shocked. People panicked, and some started crying and shouting.” Another witness told TBC that he watched as the plane appeared unsteady as it flew in poor visibility and, upon turning for the airport, missed and ended up in Lake Victoria.
An outpouring of grief
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan immediately called for calm. As the news of the crash surfaced, she encouraged the country to stay calm and to keep “praying to God to help us.”
Precision Air also released a statement in the aftermath, “Precision Air extends its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the passenger and crew involved in this tragic incident. The company will strive to provide them with information and whatever assistance they will require in their difficult time.”
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