Plane crashes in DR Congo, 20 dead: Deputy governor

The accident took place when the plane was landing at an airport in Bandundu.

Kinshasa: At least 20 people were killed after a plane flown by the Belgian head of a local airline crashed while trying to land in western Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said.

The Filair Czech-made twin turboprop crashed on Wednesday afternoon at Bandundu after a 300-kilometre (200-mile) flight from the capital Kinshasa, and apparently running out of fuel, Vicky Mboso Muteba said.

"They have brought out the people, we have 19 bodies in the morgue," said Mboso, the deputy governor of Bandundu province, northeast of Kinshasa.

One of two survivors later died in hospital.

The owner of the private airline Filair, Belgian Daniel Philemotte, 62, was at the controls of the Let-410 plane and was among those killed, along with the co-pilot and stewardess, he added.

Mboso said that after an abortive attempt to land, the aircraft turned away and crashed towards the edge of Bandundu city, hitting an earthen house whose residents had managed to flee in time.

There was no explosion, said Mboso, who was one of the first to arrive on the site along with soldiers from MONUC, the UN mission in the Congo.

"Subject to expert opinion... the presumed cause could be a lack of fuel," he said.

The Czech-made Let-410 normally carries up to 19 passengers.

An official of Kinshasa`s small city-centre Ndolo airport, from which the flight took off, confirmed the crash, but did not provide any additional information.

A Belgian diplomat in Kinshasa said Philemotte was a well-known businessman in the country, and had recently married a Congolese.

DR Congo`s aviation sector, which is littered with ageing Soviet-era planes, is generally viewed as being in a chronic state of disrepair and crashes are frequent.

All of the country`s 50-odd registered airlines have been placed on a European Union blacklist, banning them from flying into European airspace.

DR Congo`s deadliest air crash occurred in January 1996 when an Antonov 32 cargo plane crashed on a popular Kinshasa market, killing 365 people.

On April 15, 2008, a DC9 belonging to Congolese company Hewa Bora crashed at the airport of Goma, the main city of the eastern Nord-Kivu province, killing about 50 people and injuring an estimated 100.

Bureau Report

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