A US expert military team, flown in from New Orleans, Louisiana, yesterday located the wreckage of the crashed Russian cargo plane about 24meters deep on the bed of Lake Victoria, in Uganda by sonar scanning. They attempt to retrieve the flight recorder.
Also still being searched for: four missing men who were onboard.
On board were two Russians (captain and the co-pilot), two Ukranians, three senior Burundian army officers, two Ugandans, a South African and an Indian when the giant Russian Soviet-era cargo plane burst into flames and plunged into Lake Victoria on March 9 2009 enroute to Somalia. They have all died in the fiery crash. The remains of the two Ugandans, three Burundians and two Ukrainians have already been buried after they were identified.
The United States Military - which has a presence in Uganda with its AFRICOM command (see the 'anti-Africom video above to explain that some African countries oppose the US presence in Africa) -- is presently still conducting the salvage operation of the gigantic Russian transport plane, which crashed into Lake Victoria near Entebbe Airport in Uganda. They only saw the wreckage yesterday with some of the most sophisticated sonar equipment available. It was located about 24-26 deep and also embedded beneath 10 meters of silt, said Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Joachim, U.S. Embassy, Uganda Defense and Army Attache today.
Mr Douglas Ebner of US Dyncorp - the company which had contracted the Russian-made cargo plane to fly vital equipment to warn-torn Somalia -- contacted Digital Journal today and confirmed that they had been in contact with 'many members of the one of their employee's family, and had informed them that he had unfortunately passed away in the plane crash on March 9 2009." They were still 'in frequent contact with the family members' throughout the recovery stage,, Mr Ebner said.
The leased Iluyshin-76 four-engine cargo plane carried eleven people when it burst into flames and crashed into Lake Victoria after take-off from Uganda's main airport at 5:14 am. Until the flight data recorders are retrieved, it's not known why this crash occurred.
The sonar scan showed the tail section sticking out from the mud:
It was chartered by US Dyncorp - 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. DynCorp International is headquartered in Falls Church, Va in the United States.
The leased plane was owned by Aerolift, 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.
The plane, registration S9-SAB, was operated by Aerolift, an international cargo company located in Johannesburg, South Africa and in Russia -- and which uses some of the most experienced military pilots in the world.
U.S. Military salvage operation
Service members from AFRICOM's combined joint task force Horn of Africa this week left from New Orleans in Louisiana for Uganda to help in the search and recovery of human remains and the flight data recorder from the crashed Ilyushin II 76 aircraft wreckage.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Joachim, U.S. Embassy, Uganda Defense and Army Attache, the U.S. contracted IL-76 was carrying tents and water purification units to Mogadishu in support of the African Union mission in Somalia."The Ugandan response was quick and they were able to rescue some fisherman and debris," he said. "The wreckage is believed to be under 24-26 meters of water and 10 meters of silt."
'The Government of Uganda requested U.S. assistance in recovering the victims, retrieving the black box and flight data information and support in providing advisory and technical services to the accident investigation.
Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world.
"This is a search, classify and map mission. They just give us a big area and we use our different sonar systems to get a detailed map of what's down there," said sonar technician Petty Officer Michael Beuregard.
" A lot of times you can't tell 100 percent what something is but you can tell that something is there and in a situation like this, chances are it's part of what we are looking for."
The team brought three types of sonar systems, including both unmanned under water vehicles and boat-towed systems. "We can program unmanned vehicles, put them in the water and go. They have a very good picture quality because you're not effected by surface conditions and they are very accurate on giving you marks, " he said. "Some of the benefits of the towed systems is we get real time data. With the unmanned vehicles we have to recover them and then download the data."
As wreckage is identified with the Sonar systems, divers will go down in an effort to find and retrieve the aircraft flight data information. They aren't equipped to bring up large pieces of wreckage - the Russian owners of the plane will have to do that.
"U.S. service members are in the Horn of Africa to build relationships with partner nations. Tragedy came to Ugandans, they asked for our help and we came," said Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta, CJTF-HOA commander.
"Personnel recovery is an important part of CJTF-HOA's mission. This time we have deployed a team specifically to support the Ugandans in their recovery operations. We work beside Ugandan military forces on a regular basis as part of our efforts to strengthen their own security capacity." AFRICOM