Gail Dunham, President of the National Air Disaster Safety Alliance
On June 21, a domestic passenger plane crashed in a swamp in south-east Democratic Republic of Congo, killing at least one person, and officials said nine more passengers were trapped in the wreckage. At least 12 people survived, but all were injured. The passenger confirmed dead was Mbuyu Mibanga, a deputy of DRC's National Assembly. 12 injured survivors were taken to a local hospital. They included two DRC doctors working for the World Health Organization and the ministry of health, UN officials said. This incident was not widely reported in the United States.
The Czech-made Let Kunovice L-410 twin-engine propeller aircraft operated by Karibu Airways came down shortly after taking off from Kamina, in Congo's mining province of Katanga, while on a flight to the provincial capital of Lubumbashi according to MONUC reports.
The accident was the latest in a series of air crashes in the past few years in the vast, former Belgian colony, which has few paved roads and is considered one of the most dangerous nations in the world for civilian air travel. Aging aircraft mostly made in the former Soviet bloc are widely used to carry passengers and cargo between provinces.
American Gail Dunham, President of the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation (www.planesafe.org/) responded by saying, “The aviation safety statistics in Africa are awful, just awful,” but pointed out that the United States can only force safety standards if airlines fly into the U.S.
Dunham’s organization is a member of the FAA Rulemaking Committee dealing with "harmonization" of international aviation safety standards. Dunham charges that the “Bush administration has worked to cancel all rulemaking committees.”
“Bush wants NO NO NO (emphasis Dunham’s) oversight of any airlines -- just let business run itself," Dunham said.
“I have been in contact with disaster response companies for some of these African crashes, and hope to meet with them when they are in the U.S. Once again, our most corrupt administration is forcing their corporate greed policies, and Africa is only one of the many entities paying the price,” Dunham charged.
Echoing Dunham, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called the air safety records of several African countries, including Congo, an "embarrassment" for the industry.