Passenger plane crashes on Lake Victoria in Tanzania, 19 dead, Prime Minister says
- The plane was trying to land at a nearby airport – an airline
- Rescuers in boats rush out to save the trapped passengers
- The accident happened in the middle of a storm, heavy rain – broadcaster
DAR ES SALAAM, Nov 6 (Reuters) – At least 19 people were killed when a passenger plane crashed into Tanzania’s Lake Victoria on Sunday morning while trying to land at a nearby airport, the prime minister said.
Flight PW494, operated by Precision Air, hit the water during storms and heavy rain, Tanzania’s state broadcaster (TBC) reported.
Rescuers in boats rushed to the wreckage, which was almost completely submerged, to pull out the trapped passengers, local authorities said.
“All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 people … who lost their lives,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told reporters in the lakeside town of Bukoba, near the crash site.
Investigators are still looking into what happened, he added.
The plane left the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and “landed” at 8:53 a.m. (05:53 GMT) while approaching Bukoba Airport, Precision Air – Tanzania’s largest private airline – said in a statement.
The plane was carrying 39 passengers, including a child, as well as four crew members, the airline added. 26 of the 43 people on board were said to have been rescued.
Airline officials did not return calls seeking additional details, and the discrepancy in numbers could not be immediately reconciled.
A witness told TBC that he saw the plane flying erratically as it approached the airport in low visibility conditions, saying it turned for the airport but missed and entered the lake.
Videos and pictures on social media show the plane almost completely submerged, with only its green and brown tail visible above the waterline of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.
Footage from broadcasters and observers showed a large number of residents standing along the shore and others wading into shallow waters to try to help pull the craft closer to shore with ropes.
Rescuers were initially in contact with the pilots in the cockpit, Albert Chalamila, chief administrator of Tanzania’s Kagera region, told reporters. The Prime Minister later said that the pilots may have been killed.
Precision Air identified the aircraft as an ATR42-500. Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
First introduced almost 40 years ago, the ATR42 is the smaller of two series of short-haul turboprops built by ATR, a joint venture between Airbus. (AIR.PA) and Leonardo (LDOF.MI). The last fatal crash was in 2017, according to aviation-safety.net, a safety database.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has called for calm as the rescue operation continues.
“I am saddened to hear of the accident involving a Precision Air plane,” she wrote on Twitter. “Let’s be calm at this time as rescuers continue their rescue mission while praying to God to help us.”
Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi and Tim Hepher in Paris Writing by Elias Biryabarema Editing by Alexandra Zavis, William Maclean, Helen Popper and Andrew Heavens
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