UN aid plane crash kills 17 in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Beechcraft 1900, similar to the one involved in the crash
Image: Adrian Pingstone.
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A United Nations (UN) aid plane in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has crashed, killing all seventeen passengers on board. According to a spokesperson for the organisation "The plane was found 15 kilometres (eight miles) northwest of Bukavu airport. There were 15 passengers and two crew on board."

Air Serv International, the operator of the aircraft, said that it did not believe there to be any survivors. They also said in the statement that "the staff of Air Serv International express their condolences and deepest sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew."

The UN has identified the victims as a Canadian member of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), an Indian who worked for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, two members of Medecins Sans Frontiers, one from France and one from the Republic of Congo.

The other thirteen were citizens of the DRC. Two were employees of Air Serv and were the crew. Four were with the UNDP and another four were civil servants, while the last three worked for Handicap International.

The UN spokesperson also said that "the helicopter landed far away [from the wreckage] and the search and rescue team headed to the site on foot."

The plane was on a journey from Kinshasa to Goma, with stops at Mbandaka, Kisangani and Bukavu.

Air crashes are common in the DRC and, as a result, Congolese airliners are banned from flying in the airspace of countries in the European Union.