Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kenya: Malindi Airport Pothole Causes a Plane Crash

An unknown number of people, including two pilots of a private jet, narrowly escaped death after their plane crashed immediately before it 
took off at the Malindi Airport yesterday.

The 12-seater plane allegedly hit a pothole and its tire burst as it took off.

Witnesses said the plane rolled from North where it was heading and faced South before crashing with one of its wings down. A group of casual laborers building the the airport’s fence said the plane had stayed at the airport less than an hour.

The accident disrupted activities at the airport for several hours as rescue teams, including the two firefighting engines, ambulances rushed to the scene to help.

It is alleged that the airport’s runway is full of potholes and contributed to accident, the second in two weeks.”The plane left the hangar and upon reaching the beginning of the runway, it increased speed so as to be able to take off from the Northern side,” said Simon Kama, who was at the airport when the accident occurred.”It rolled and landed outside the runway, and moments later, we saw two people walking out of the plane,” he said.Curious onlookers jammed the airport’s fence as the security officials tried to handle the emergency.

Journalists were roughed up by the airport security officers who barred them from accessing the scene, forcing them to take pictures when far away from the scene.

Some of the security personnel also pursued the journalists to the fence but never caught up with them as they escaped to an interior area which was not visible.

Airport manager Walter Agong told the journalists to wait from outside as it was against the airport rules for them to access the accident scene.

He promised to call them later for further briefings as he was still in a ‘crucial meeting’ and could not immediately confirm anything. It was however not clear whether the plane belonged to foreigners or Africans. Two weeks ago, a plane crashed a few meters from yesterday’s scene.

The failed take-off attempt yesterday, Tuesday, October 9, by a South African-registered, twin-engined aircraft, registered as ZS-SSY, spared the lives of 8 passengers, some of whom, however, were reportedly injured during the accident.

For no immediately available reasons, the aircraft, while on its take-off run, failed to leave the ground but eventually slid off the runway of Malindi Airport in Kenya. Speculation, however, focuses on either burst tires or the collapse of the main landing gear, perhaps supported by the fact that the aircraft, when it came to a stop in the grass besides the runway, was on its belly while the front gear was still extended.

The fire brigade and ambulance services rushed immediately to the scene when the tower saw the plane veer off the runway and evacuated the passengers to a Malindi hospital for treatment.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has launched an accident investigation, and inspectors were flown from Nairobi to Malindi to collect the evidence and check out the aircraft’s and pilot’s documentation while also securing the wreck for evaluation of damages and potential technical faults prior to take off.

The destination of the flight was not made available by a regular aviation source from Mombasa, who said overnight he was “stalled” by his own contacts in Malindi and the nationality of the passengers was also not known at the time of going to press.

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