Survivors of Tanzanian plane crash, rescuers describe heroics accompanied by tragedy

Survivors of Tanzanian plane crash, rescuers describe heroics accompanied by tragedy

BUKOBA, Tanzania, Nov 8 (Reuters) – When the waters of Lake Victoria began pouring into the cabin of flight PW494, passenger Mektrida Samuel knew she had to act fast. Others around him frantically tried to free themselves and stay above the rapidly rising water.

“We had a big crash and I immediately started seeing water coming into the plane. Passengers started fighting to save themselves,” Samuel said, describing the moments when the Precision Air flight to Bukoba plunged into a lake in northern Tanzania.

“The only thing that helped me survive was that I was able to unbuckle my seat belt and get out of the seat in time.”

Minutes earlier, the twin-turboship, with 43 people on board, had been struck by a thunderstorm due to heavy rain and strong currents below.

A witness saw the plane flying erratically in poor visibility as it made a turn towards the airport, but missed it by turning towards the lake at 8:53 am (0553 GMT). Tanzanian authorities have not yet determined the cause of the plane crash.

In the hours and days after the accident, reports of dramatic rescue and survival efforts emerged.

The two pilots survived the impact and were in contact with rescuers from the cockpit for several hours, the local administrator said, before reporting that their oxygen supply was running low.

Onlookers, including fisherman Majaliva Jackson, rushed to the half-submerged aircraft to help pull out the stranded passengers.

Jackson dove into the water and was able to communicate with the pilots by signaling through the window, he told the BBC.

The pilots directed him to try to smash the windshield, but the official told him not to, he said.

He took one last dive into the water and waved goodbye.

TOW THE AIRCRAFT OUT

Video from the scene shows fishing boats and people on shore trying to pull the plane out of the water with ropes attached to its tail fin.

Samuel, who survived the crash, was able to swim to the back of the plane, where a crew member helped open the emergency door, he said.

“A few minutes later, local fishermen came to rescue us,” he said.

By the time rescuers reached the pilots, their air supply ran out and the pair died, authorities said.

Among the dead was another man who was returning from his niece’s wedding in another part of the country, according to his relative Alfred Tibaigana.

“We accepted this tragedy of our dear relative with great sadness,” Tibaigana told Reuters.

a ceremony at the stadium In Bukoba on Monday, relatives, religious leaders and government officials walked past the coffins of the 19 people who died in the incident, each decorated with flowers and a photograph of the deceased.

The government said it would reward Jackson, who tried in vain to rescue the pilots, with 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($430) for his bravery and hire him as a first responder.

Reporting by Benson Jacob; Written by Hervard Holland; Edited by Angus McSwan

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