Passenger plane crashes into Lake Victoria in Tanzania, 19 dead, prime minister says

  • Plane trying to land at a nearby airport – airline
  • Rescuers on board rush out to rescue trapped passengers
  • Crash in storm and heavy rain – broadcaster

DAR ES SALAM, Nov 6 (Reuters) – At least 19 people were killed when a passenger plane crashed into Lake Victoria in Tanzania as it attempted to land at a nearby airport on Sunday morning, the prime minister said.

According to the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), flight PW494, operated by Precision Air, plunged into the water during the storm and heavy rain.

Rescuers from the ship rushed to the almost completely submerged wreckage and pulled trapped passengers out, the local government said.

“All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 people…they lost their lives,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told reporters in the lakeside city of Bukoba, near the crash site.

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Investigators are still investigating what happened, he added.

Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest private airline, said in a statement that the plane left the commercial capital Dar es Salaam at 8.53am (0553 GMT) and “ditched” as it was approaching Burundi. Cobar Airport.

The airline added that the plane was carrying 39 passengers, including an infant, and four crew members. Twenty-six of the 43 people on board were rescued.

Airline officials did not answer calls seeking more details, and the discrepancy in numbers could not be immediately reconciled.

A witness told TBC he saw the plane teeter as it approached the airport in poor visibility and said it turned at the airport but missed and fell into the lake.

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Videos and pictures on social media showed the plane almost completely submerged, with only a green and brown tail visible above the waterline of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

Footage from broadcasters and bystanders showed dozens of residents standing on the shoreline as others waded into shallow waters and tried to use ropes to help pull the plane closer to shore.

Rescuers initially kept in touch with the pilot from the cockpit, Albert Chalamila, chief administrative officer of Tanzania’s Kagera region, told reporters. The prime minister later said the pilot may have died.

Precision Air identified the aircraft as an ATR42-500. French-Italian manufacturer ATR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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First introduced about 40 years ago, the ATR42 is the smaller of two short-range turboprop families built by ATR, a joint venture between Airbus (AIR.PA) and Leonardo (LDOF.MI). The last fatal accident occurred in 2017, according to safety database Aviation-safety.net.

Tanzanian President Samia Suruhu Hassan called for calm as rescue operations continued.

“I am saddened to receive news of an accident involving the Precision Air plane,” she tweeted. “As rescuers continue their rescue mission, let’s remain calm and ask God to help us.”

Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi and Tim Hepher in Paris Editing by Elias Biryabarema by Alexandra Zavis, William Maclean, Helen Popper and Andrew Heavens

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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