Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Plane crash at Entebbe
A SOUTH African-registered plane crashed immediately after take-off at Entebbe Airport yesterday morning, killing two expatriates involved in Uganda's mineral exploration exercise.

The 8-seater, a light aircraft operated by Fugro Airborne Surveys, went down immediately after take-off, crashing at or about 7.37 a.m. The French-made Reims craft took a nosedive and suddenly disintegrated in a depression between the eastern taxiing lane and the western runway, aviation authorities said.

But investigators will need time to establish the cause of the accident, transport State Minister Simon Ejua told a press conference at the airport.

"The aircraft took off at Entebbe Airport at 7.37 a.m. this morning for aerial surveys north of Entebbe and crashed immediately after with two people on board. The two people on board sustained fatal injuries and were rushed to Mulago Hospital," said Mr Ejua, reading from a prepared statement. "Investigations into the probable cause of the accident have been instituted..."

But an airport employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, said the South African pilot, Capt. Erard Peter, died instantly, while the technician from Botswana, Ms Selina Mareme, died almost immediately after being extracted from the wreckage.

"I think the plane could have crashed due to up-thrust, because the pilot took it up sharply like a military jet and then the engines suddenly failed, and we saw it coming down," said the source, who is fairly knowledgeable in aviation matters.
At the crash site, broken glasses and aircraft parts, including the tyres were strewn all over, and the fuselage and tail surfaces lay about 75 metres apart.

"What happened at 7:37am this (yesterday) morning is that a small aircraft of type F406 crashed immediately after take off at Entebbe Airport. The destination was supposed to be northern Uganda," Minister Ejua said at the press conference. The exact destination was Masindi District, he added.

Mr Daudi Migereko, the minister for energy and mineral development, said the crash was "unfortunate". "They [the dead] have been doing good work and the preliminary report of their aero-magnetic surveys (for mineral exploration) have been interesting in that they had identified different parts of this country with mineral potential," Mr Migereko said in a phone interview.

He said the government would engage Fugro Airborne Surveys to determine how to proceed with the surveys, which began in November 2006 and were due to end in December.

Minister Ejua told Daily Monitor in a separate interview that he had constituted a five-member committee to immediately investigate the crash. Mr Moses Adriko, a former president of the Uganda Law Society, will chair the probe team and Ms Patricia Asiimwe, a senior state attorney in the office of the Attorney General, will be its secretary.

Other members include; Mr Ben Kwobe, an airworthiness surveyor, Mr Robert Ntambi, a senior air transport regulation officer in the Ministry of Works, and Captain Paul Tamale, who has been a pilot with DAS Air cargo. Knowledgeable sources speculated that the accident was most likely caused by pilot error. Former minister Francis Babu, a flight captain, said the incident could not be a measure of Uganda's air safety, because "you must treat each accident on its own merits".

And according to former minister Mike Mukula, also a flight captain, the accident could have been the result of many scenarios, most especially pilot error.
The investigators will need to establish if there was a weather problem, whether the aircraft ran out of fuel or if certain regulatory standards were not met, he said.
"Entebbe international Airport is in excellent state. New equipment has been installed and the runway is of international standards."

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