Kinshasa sees repeat of ground carnage after crash

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An Antonov An-26 freighter operated by El Sam Airlift crashed into houses near a market soon after taking off from Ndjili International airport at Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on 4 October. An undetermined number of people on the ground and almost all those on board were killed in the accident. This is the sixth fatal accident in DR Congo this year, all involving various marques of Antonov turboprop freighters or Let L-410 utility aircraft.

This sort of accident has happened in Kinshasa before: a crash following an attempted take-off from Kinshasa's N'Dolo airport in January 1996 killed more than 300 people in a marketplace at the end of the runway. To this day that remains the largest number of fatalities on the ground ever caused by an aircraft crash.

Authorities estimate at least 25 people on board died in the accident, and the police report many fatalities on the ground in the Kingasani area close to the airport.

Civil aviation chief Alphonse Ilunga says the flight manifest recorded 16 people aboard, but adds that an unknown number of others had boarded the aircraft before take-off. The AFP news agency quotes Michel Bonnardeaux, a spokesman for the UN mission in DR Congo, as saying that 27 people had been on board the aircraft, but two of the crew had survived. The airport says the An-26 twin turboprop (9Q-COS) was bound for Tshikapa in the south, and it crashed 5km (2.7nm) from Ndjili airport in the Kingasani market at about 10:30 local time. Unconfirmed reports suggest its starboard engine failed and the aircraft could not maintain height.

On 8 January 1996, more than 300 people were killed and 253 seriously injured when a Scibe Airlift An-32B failed to take-off and ploughed over the end of the runway at high speed into a busy marketplace. In that event five of the six crew survived.

European Union law now prohibits all operations to EU countries by all airlines and aircraft registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Africa One.