Tanzania plane crash: Rescue efforts delayed, report finds

Divers were unable to launch a rescue operation after a passenger plane crashed in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria as they lacked oxygen in their cylinders, an official report has found.

At least 19 people died after the plane plunged into the lake on 6 November.

The report from Tanzania’s transport ministry painted a damning picture of the emergency services’ preparedness to deal with the disaster.

More lives may have been saved if rescue efforts started sooner, it said.

Instead, the police marine unit had only one rescue boat. It arrived at the site of the crash four hours later and did not have enough fuel, the report said.

“The two pilots who were in the cockpit appear to have been unable to open the cockpit door and overhead escape hatch because of high water pressure.

“If there could have been immediate rescue operations, it is most likely that more people would have survived,” it added.

The report echoed earlier public criticism of rescue operations, but failed to disclose the cause of the crash, saying that an investigation was still under way.

However, there was bad weather – including thunderstorms and strong winds – before the privately owned Precision Air flight crashed into the lake.

Fishermen were first at the site, and spearheaded rescue efforts. Of the 43 people on board, 24 survived. The two pilots were among the dead.

The plane left the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and made a scheduled stop at Mwanza before it crashed at around 05:50 GMT as it was approaching the airport in the lakeside town of Bukoba.

Some of the surviving passengers said that the plane’s approach was normal until shortly before touchdown when the aircraft shook violently and nosed down while banking to the left, the report said.

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has pledged to strengthen the country’s disaster response services after her cabinet discussed the crash last week.

The report is the first of three investigations that are due to be released over the next year.

The government has rewarded fisherman Majaliwa Jackson for his rescue efforts. It has declared him a hero, awarded 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($430; £370), and offered him job in the fire and rescue brigade.

map showing the crash site