Tanzanian Precision Air aircraft crashes into Lake Victoria
A Tanzanian passenger ATR 42-500 aircraft has crashed into Lake Victoria as it attempted to land in the lakeside town of Bukoba, killing at least 19 people on Sunday, 6 November 2022. Of the 43 people on board there were 24 survivors, according to operator Precision Air. The aircraft crashed due to bad weather shortly before landing in the northwestern city of Bukoba, police said, adding that rescue efforts were ongoing. “We have managed to save quite a number of people,” Kagera province police commander William Mwampaghale told journalists. When the aircraft was about 100 metres midair, it encountered problems and bad weather. It was raining and the plane plunged into the water,” he said.
Emergency workers have used ropes to pull the ATR-42 aircraft even closer to the shore and some of the aircraft's body is now above the water. Immediately after the crash, the aircraft was almost completely submerged with only the brown and green tail fin visible. Rescuers were able to wade through the water to bring some of those still inside the aircraft to safety.
The aircraft crashed near the shore at the end of the Bukoba Airport runway.
Abdul Nuri was at the airport waiting for the return flight to Tanzania's biggest city, Dar es Salaam, when he saw the aircraft plunge into Africa's largest lake. "We were really shocked. People panicked and some started crying and shouting," he told the BBC. "At the arrivals gate people panicked as well - most of them were waiting to welcome their relatives."
He has spoken to the fishermen who were first on the scene. They told him they managed to get into the aircraft to rescue people after a flight attendant opened the rear door after the aircraft had crashed.
The tragedy, which occurred around 08h50 local time, has been blamed on bad weather.
Richard Komba, a survivor of the crash, told the BBC that when the aircraft was about to land, the weather had deteriorated, forcing the pilot to reroute the aircraft. "We were then informed that we would be landing shortly, but there was heavy turbulence. We later found ourselves in the lake," Komba said. "Water then entered the aircraft and those sitting near the front were covered by it. I was in the back seat and most of us in the back of the aircraft struggled to get out."
He said one cabin crew member was struggling to open the aircraft's door, but he was eventually able to be freed. "When we got out, no boat was there; it took quite long to get rescued but the boat that came was not so good, it was a canoe." He said the survivors were "scared" because of the number of people trying to fit in the one vessel but he said other rescue boats arrived minutes later.
Tanzania's Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the rescued passengers were in hospital and were not seriously injured, "but they are shocked and worried". Earlier, Minister Majaliwa went to the scene and said an extensive investigation would be carried out to determine the full causes of the crash. "We are still identifying the bodies but it is highly likely that the pilots might have perished," he said.
The airport has been closed until further notice.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan has expressed her condolences to those affected and called for calm as the rescue operation continues.
The aircraft was flying from Dar es Salaam to Bukoba via Mwanza.
Precision Air is Tanzania's largest private airline and is partly owned by Kenya Airways. It was founded in 1993 and operates domestic and regional flights.