Tanzania’s prime minister says passenger plane crashes in Lake Victoria, 19 dead

Tanzania’s prime minister says passenger plane crashes in Lake Victoria, 19 dead

  • The plane was trying to land at the nearest airport, the airline
  • Rescuers with boats rush to rescue stranded passengers
  • The accident occurred as a result of storms and heavy rain

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, the state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) reported.

Rescuers rushed boats to the wreckage, which was almost completely submerged, to pull out stranded 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, close to the crash site.

He added that investigators are still investigating the incident.

The plane left the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and “crash landed” at 08:53 a.m. (0553 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. It is noted that 26 of the 43 people on the plane were saved.

Airline officials did not return calls seeking additional details, and the number discrepancy could not be immediately corrected.

An eyewitness told TBC he saw the plane flying erratically as it approached the airport in poor visibility, saying it made a turn to the airport but missed and entered the lake.

Videos and pictures posted 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.

Broadcaster and eyewitness footage showed scores of residents standing along the shoreline, while others waded into the shallow waters to try to pull the plane closer to shore with ropes.

Rescuers were initially in contact with the pilots in the cockpit, Albert Chalamila, chief administrator of Tanzania’s Kagera district, told reporters. The prime minister later said the pilots may have been killed.

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

First introduced almost 40 years ago, the ATR42 is the smaller of two lines of short-haul turboprops produced by ATR, a joint venture with Airbus. (AIR.PA) and Leonardo (LDOF.MI). The last fatal crash occurred in 2017, according to aviation-safety.net, a safety database.

Tanzanian President Samia Sulukhu Hassan has called for calm as the rescue operation continues.

“I am sorry to hear the news about the crash of the Precision Air airline,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let’s be calm at this moment as the rescuers continue the rescue mission, praying to God to help us.”

Additional reporting by Duncan Miiri in Nairobi and Tim Heffer in Paris Writing by Elias Biryabarema Editing by Alexandra Zavis, William Maclean, Helen Popper and Andrew Havens

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