On August 25th, 2010, something very unusual happened to result in the crash of a Let L-410 which was carrying 21 passengers and crew, of which only 1 survived the disaster and flying under the registration 9Q-CCN. The most common causes of plane crashes tend to be pilot error, mechanical error, or weather issues. However, on that particular day, it was none of those that caused this turboprop to crash. The plane crashed on its approach to Bandundu Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo all because of an escaped crocodile.
The plane had been in service with Filair since 2009 and was constructed by the Czech company Let Kunovice and had been flown previously with the cargo and charter airline from Estonia Airest until 2007, which it was then stored until it was purchased in 2009 by the Congolese airline. The flight was a domestic one, a “round robin flight”, originating from the city of Kinshasha- the capital city of the DRC. On the way to its final destination, it stopped at Kiri, Bokoro, Semendwa, and Bandundu.
The airplane was making its final approach when a crocodile that a passenger smuggled in a duffel bag escaped. Chaos ensued as the frightened passengers and a flight attendant all ran towards the front of the plane, to the cockpit. This dramatically changed the balance of the airplane and the captain struggled to keep control of the aircraft, and it crashed, killing 19 people instantly, one woman succumbed to her injuries on the way to the hospital. There was a lone survivor of the crash, who was able to tell the investigators what happened.
Shortly after the crash, the Congolese Ministry of Transport opened an investigation into the incident. What was shocking about this crash was that the crocodile survived the crash but was killed by a machete during the recovery. Congo’s air safety record hasn’t been great, as the standard is poor, using mainly soviet era aircraft with many faults. Crashes are common in the country. Filair is one of the many Congolese airlines banned from flying into the European Union.
- CBS News
- The aviation herald