Tanzanians in shock after Lake Victoria plane crash

Precision Air Flight PW 494 came down in bad weather on Sunday, killing 19 people

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Tanzanians were in shock on Monday, a day after 19 people died when their passenger plane crashed into Lake Victoria as it approached an airport in the city of Bukoba.

Fishermen and rescue workers rushed to save people who were stranded in the plane, rescuing 24, but many did not escape the mostly submerged aircraft.

Aviation authorities and Precision Air — Tanzania’s largest privately-owned airline — said they were investigating what caused the 43-seat, twin-engine propeller plane to come down short of the runway but blame so far has been placed on bad weather.

There were 39 passengers on Flight PW 494, including a child, and four crew when it crashed. The aircraft was a French-Italian ATR 42-500, a 1980s-era plane.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa was among hundreds of people who gathered at Kaitaba Stadium in Bukoba, with Muslim and Christian clerics leading prayers for the dead as onlookers wiped away tears.

The ceremony to hand over the bodies of the victims to their families is expected to take hours, with local broadcasters running live coverage from the stadium.

AFP journalists saw the plane largely submerged on Sunday as rescuers waded through water to bring people to safety.

Emergency workers attempted to lift the aircraft out of the water using ropes, assisted by cranes, as residents also sought to help.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Monday expressed her condolences to victims' families, praising emergency workers and volunteers for acting quickly to save lives.

"I congratulate those who participated in the rescue, including the people of Bukoba," she said on Twitter.

"I pray for the deceased to rest in peace and for the injured to recover quickly."

Precision Air, which is partly owned by Kenya Airways, was founded in 1993 and operates domestic and regional flights as well as private charters to popular tourist destinations such as Serengeti National Park and the Zanzibar archipelago.

The accident comes five years after 11 people died when a plane belonging to safari company Coastal Aviation crashed in northern Tanzania.

In 1999, a dozen people, including 10 US tourists, died in a plane crash in northern Tanzania while flying between Serengeti National Park and Kilimanjaro airport.

Updated: November 07, 2022, 12:02 PM