Tanzania bids tearful farewell to 19 plane crash victims

Friends and relatives of the 19 people who died in a plane crash in Tanzania on Sunday bid farewell to the victims at a public funeral on Monday evening.

Weeping relatives filed past a row of coffins in the lakeside town of Bukoba as religious and political leaders gathered for a ceremony to honor the victims.

Flight PW494, operated by Tanzanian airline Precision Air and carrying 43 people, hit water in stormy weather as it attempted to land at Bukoba airport early Sunday morning from the capital Dar es Hello.

Transport Minister Makame Mbarawa told mourners gathered at a stadium that the weather had abruptly changed from good to stormy as the plane approached the airport.

“There was rain accompanied by thunderstorms and high winds that had a downdraft,” he said, referring to a downdraft.

Tanzanian authorities were investigating the causes of the crash and would publish their findings, he said.

A team from the French air accident investigation agency BEA as well as technical advisers from the Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, which built the ATR 42-500 turboprop, were on their way to Tanzania to help, said a BEA spokesperson.

Relatives react as they attend the ceremony to hand over the bodies of the victims to their families, Bukoba, Tanzania, November 7, 2022. (Photo Reuters)

In Bukoba, the 19 coffins were carried into the stadium by Tanzanian troops and then laid out in a row, each decorated with flowers and a photograph of the deceased. Relatives lowered their heads and some burst into tears as they walked past.

Footage of the immediate aftermath of the crash showed the plane’s tailplane, emblazoned with the Precision Air logo – the silhouette of a gazelle against a yellow sun – sticking out of the lake.

People rushed to the scene in boats and some swam in the lake to help rescue trapped passengers and recover bodies.

During the ceremony on Monday, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa pointed to praise a young fisherman who was among the first rescuers. The government will reward him with 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($430) and hire him as a first responder.

Experts say most plane crashes are caused by a cocktail of factors that take months to fully understand.

Under international rules, the Tanzania-led investigation would include the participation of authorities in France, where the plane was designed, and Canada, where its Pratt & Whitney engines were developed.

ATR said it was “fully committed to supporting the customer and the investigation.”

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