A Russian Ilyushin-76 transport plane burst into flames before it crashed into Lake Victoria, some 7km from Ugandan airport Entebbe early Monday. "It plunged into the lake and went down deep,' officials say. All 11 people on board are feared killed.
Officials aren't ruling out the possibiity that there may have been a bomb on board. The crew members on board, two Russians and two Ukrainians, are highly experienced pilots with years of experience in bush-flying in Africa. They have been confirmed killed.
It also hit two fishing boats: injuring four fishermen, according to Ugandan government spokesmen. see
Confirmed killed were two Russian and two Ukrainian crew members and three high-ranking Burundian military officers. Also on board were one Ugandan soldier, an Indian citizen, a Ugandan loadmaster and a South African peacekeeper. All were enroute to Somalia on a peacekeeping mission.
The giant, four-engined Russian transport plane had just taken off from Entebbe airport when it was seen bursting into flames, hitting two fishing boats and crashing beneath the waves.
The American-based charter company which leased the Russian cargo plane, US Dyncorp, confirmed the crash in an email to Digital Journal, but has released no other information.
It went down deep
Reuters reports that there were fears that all eleven on board have been killed. "It plunged into the lake and went down deep," a Ugandan aviation industry source said. Lake Victoria, the world's second-largest fresh-water body, is 84 metres deep and straddles three countries.
"We have not rescued anybody... Time is really working against us," said Ugandan Information Minister Matsiko Kabakumba.
Rescue boats and divers scoured the lake's choppy waters for survivors some 7 km (4.3 miles) from Uganda's main airport at Entebbe, where the plane began its flight. Two wheels and some wreckage were brought onshore.
A Burundi army spokesman confirmed three of its soldiers -- a brigadier general, a colonel and a captain -- had died. "The information we have is that the plane crashed five minutes after taking off at Entebbe Airport. Burundi deplores the death of three of its officers who were on the plane," Adolphe Manirakiza told Reuters in Bujumbura.
There was no immediate word on what caused the crash."We're not ruling anything out, and we're not ruling anything in," Kabakumba said, adding that the plane was a real workhorse: it had flown some 20 missions in recent weeks.
Russian media said the pilot and copilot were Russian citizens and the navigator and flight engineer were Ukrainians. All four were killed in the crash, said Ruslan Madiyev, an official at the Russian embassy in Kampala, Uganda.
Uganda's government said the flight also carried one Ugandan soldier, an Indian citizen, a Ugandan loadmaster and a South African peacekeeper.
Eleven Burundians also killed in suicide bomb
The Somalian conflict is beginning to take a heavy toll of Burundian soldiers: three weeks ago, eleven Burundian soldiers were also killed in a suicide bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia and 15 injured.
The plane, registration S9-SAB, was operated byAerolift, an international cargo company with offices in South Africa. It was chartered by Dyncorp, the US military and intelligence contractor, to fly emergency supplies to Somalia.
DynCorp International's director of media relations, Douglas Ebner, told Digital Journal today by email from Virginia in the United States that he 'can confirm that an aircraft chartered by DynCorp International crashed in Lake Victoria, Uganda, early Monday morning local time." No further information was forthcoming from the company.
However, Ignie Igunduura, spokesman for the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority, says it was taking off from Entebbe airport to Somalia with tents and water purification equipment for the African Mission to Somalia (AMSOM).
It might be a big task to retrieve all the wreckage of the huge transport plane to establish the cause of the crash: Lake Victoria is 84 meters deep as it occupies a wide depression between the East and West Great Rift Valleys running down the spine of Africa. It's the largest of all African lakes, is also the second widest freshwater body in the world. Its extensive surface belongs to the three countries; the northern half to Uganda, the southern half to Tanzania, and part of the northeastern sector to Kenya.
DynCorp International - run by retired US military and security experts -- is a provider of specialized mission-critical services to civilian and military government agencies worldwide, and operates major programs in law enforcement training and support, security services, base operations, aviation services, contingency operations, and logistics support.
Aerolift was established in 1996 with Russian military equipment and retired Russian military officers 'to "meet the ever-growing international need for a dedicated, specialist aviation contract operator", it says on its website.
Three weeks ago, a suicide bombing in Mogadishu Somalia took also took the lives of 11 Burundian soldiers from the African Union contingent in Somalia and seriously injured 15 others.
The UN Secretary-General said he still firmly believed in 'AMISOM’s continued commitment", and that its sacrifice in Somalia must be backed by wider support from the international community so that it can effectively carry out its mandate under difficult circumstances. "