By SAMMY MUPFUNI Associated Press
GOMA, Congo (AP) — A small passenger plane carrying at least 17 passengers crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday in Congo’s eastern city of Goma, killing at least 25 people, including people on the ground.
There are two survivors, including one member of the crew, according to the National Border Health Program, which confirmed 25 dead in a statement later Sunday. The survivors are being cared for at a local hospital, it said.
The 19-seater aircraft crashed into residential homes in the Mapendo district near Goma’s airport in the North Kivu province shortly after “missing” its takeoff, according to provincial governor Nzanzu Kasivita Carly. Black smoke rose from the plane in the morning, whose wreckage could be seen amid destroyed homes as dozens of men tried to help with the rescue efforts. The smoke cleared as rescue workers carried bodies in stretchers and hundreds gathered at the scene.
Placide Kambale, a local pilot, said he took a taxi to the scene of the crash to help out. When he got there, the plane was on fire.
“I called other young people from the neighborhood, they helped me to try to remove those who still moved,” he said. “We have managed to recover two that was quickly sent to the hospital,” but then the fire expanded.
Joseph Makundi, coordinator of the North-Kivu civil protection, said that at least 25 people had been killed.
The Dornier 228-200 was owned by private carrier Busy Bee and was headed to Beni, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Goma in the same province.
Congo’s government said there were 17 passengers aboard the plane, according to the manifest.
The U.N. mission in Congo said it sent an Emergency Crash and Rescue team with two fire engines to support Congolese authorities.
Plane crashes are frequent in the central African nation of Congo because of poor maintenance and relaxed air safety standards. None of Congo’s commercial carriers, including Busy Bee, are allowed to fly into European Union airspace because of safety concerns.
Associated Press reporter Justin Kabumba contributed this report.