At least 25 killed after plane crashes in DR Congo’s Goma city

Casualties include residents on the ground after aircraft heading to Beni went down near Goma’s airport.

A small passenger plane crashed shortly after take-off on Sunday killing at least 25 people, including some on the ground, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The plane, operated by local company Busy Bee, went down after shortly take-off in the eastern city of Goma, North Kivu Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita’s office said in a statement.

Two survivors, including one member of the crew, were being cared for at a local hospital, according to the National Border Health Program.

The company said the 19-seater Dornier 228-200 had 16 passengers and two crew members on board. The aircraft was headed for the city of Beni, 350km (220 miles) north of Goma, when it went down. 

Images from the scene showed plumes of black smoke and flames from the burning plane as locals looked on. Rescue workers combed through the burned-out fuselage.

The exact number of casualties on the plane and on the ground was not yet known.

Witnesses said the pilot was attempting to return the plane to the airport after they heard a loud sound that seemed to come from the engine, according to Al Jazeera’s Alain Uaykani, reporting Beni.

He said Busy Bee indicated the engine had just been changed on the plane.

“Something apparently has gone wrong with the new engine,” Uaykani said. “They could not save anyone from this plane because of the difficult situation with the location of the area.”

DR Congo plane crash
 Air accidents are relatively frequent in the DRC because of lax safety standards and poor maintenance [Pamela Tulizo/AFP]

At the crash site in Goma’s Mapendo neighbourhood, residents threw water from buckets and cooking pots onto the smouldering wreckage. The rear section of the plane rested sideways, propped up by a wall, videos posted on social media showed.

“I was at a restaurant with my family when I saw the plane spinning three times in the air and emitting a lot of smoke,” said Djemo Medar, an eyewitness in Mapendo. “After that we saw the plane crash into this house,” he said pointing to a nearby building.

“We know the pilot. His name is Didier. He was shouting, ‘Help me, Help me.’ But we had no way to get to him because the fire was so powerful,” Medar said.

Busy Bee, a recently established company, has three planes serving routes in the North Kivu province.

Air accidents are relatively frequent in the DRC because of lax safety standards and poor maintenance. All of the country’s commercial carriers, including Busy Bee, are prohibited from operating in the European Union.

In October, a cargo plane also departing from the same airport crashed an hour after take-off, killing all eight passengers and crew.

In September 2017, an Antonov cargo plane chartered by the army crashed near the capital Kinshasa, killing all 12 people on board.

The country’s deadliest Antonov disaster was in January 1996 when an overloaded plane overshot the runway in Kinshasa and crashed into a popular market, killing hundreds on the ground.

Goma map
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies