Tanzanian authorities on Tuesday said the wreckage of a plane that crashed in Lake Victoria has been pulled out of the water, following the country’s deadliest air accident in decades.
Nineteen people died when the Precision Air plane went down on Sunday as it approached the northwestern city of Bukoba, prompting a frantic rescue effort by emergency workers, fishermen and residents to pluck people to safety from the largely submerged aircraft.
“We have completely removed the plane out of water and now the professional investigation into the cause of the accident is under way,” the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) said in a statement.
“Bukoba Airport will also be reopened soon to allow aviation operations to continue as usual,” it added.
Video footage broadcast on local media showed the plane’s twisted wreckage being pulled up by a crane, its nose collapsing towards the ground, before it was deposited on a patch of grass.
Precision Air, a publicly listed company and Tanzania’s largest private carrier, said the aircraft was an ATR 42-500, manufactured by Toulouse-based Franco-Italian firm ATR, and had 39 passengers — including an infant — and four crew members on board.
Twenty-four survived out of the 43 people aboard flight PW 494 from financial capital Dar es Salaam.
The victims included a Kenyan citizen and a British national, government spokesman Gerson Msigwa told reporters in Bukoba.
“We are communicating with the respective embassies to transport the bodies,” he said.
Msigwa said investigators from ATR were expected in Tanzania on Tuesday to join their counterparts from Precision Air and the TAA, who arrived in the lakeside city on Sunday.
Police blamed bad weather for the accident amid questions about the government’s handling of the rescue effort.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the government would do more “to ensure safety in the aviation transport sector”.
Precision Air, which is partly owned by Kenya Airways, was founded in 1993 and operates domestic and regional flights as well as private tourist charters.
The accident comes five years after 11 people died when a plane belonging to safari company Coastal Aviation crashed in northern Tanzania.
In 1999, a dozen people, including 10 US tourists, died in a plane crash in northern Tanzania while flying between Serengeti National Park and Kilimanjaro airport.