- The plane was trying to land at a nearby airport – Airline
- Lifeguards rush into boats to rescue the trapped passengers
- A crash occurred in the middle of storms and heavy rain – announcer
Dar es Salaam (Reuters) – At least 19 people died when a passenger plane crashed in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria on Sunday morning while trying to land at a nearby airport, the prime minister said.
The Tanzanian State Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) reported that Flight PW494, operated by Precision Air, hit the water during storms and heavy rain.
Local authorities said rescuers in the boats rushed to the wreck, which was almost completely submerged, to pull out the trapped passengers.
“All Tanzanians are joining you in mourning for these 19 people… who lost their lives,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told reporters in Bukoba, near the scene.
He added that investigators are still looking into what happened.
Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest private airline, said in a statement that the plane left the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and “landed” at 8:53 a.m. (0553 GMT) as it approached Bukoba airport.
The company added that the plane was carrying 39 passengers, including an infant, as well as its four-member crew. She added that 26 of the 43 people on board were rescued.
Airlines officials did not respond to calls seeking more details, and the discrepancy in the numbers could not be immediately settled.
A witness told TBC he saw the plane flying unsteadily as it approached the airport in poor visibility conditions, saying it took a turn for the airport but missed and went into the lake.
Videos and photos on social media showed 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 the broadcaster and onlookers showed dozens of residents standing along the shoreline and others wading into shallow waters trying to help pull the plane close to shore with ropes.
Albert Chalamila, director of Tanzania’s Kagera region, told reporters that rescue workers were initially in contact with the pilots in the cockpit. The prime minister later said the pilots may have died.
Precision Air identified the aircraft as the ATR42-500. French-Italian company ATR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
First introduced nearly 40 years ago, the ATR42 is the youngest of the two series of short-range turboprops produced by ATR, a joint venture with Airbus. (AIR.PA) and leonardo (LDOF.MI). The last fatal accident was in 2017, according to aviation-safety.net, a safety database.
Tanzanian President Samia Solo Hassan called for calm as the rescue operation continued.
“It is with sadness that I have received the news of the Precision Air crash,” she wrote on Twitter. “Let’s be calm at this moment the rescuers continue the rescue mission while we pray to God to help us.”
Additional reporting by Duncan Meriri in Nairobi and Tim Hever in Paris.
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.