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Reports of Deaths in Congo Plane Crash Under-Reported

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Gail Dunham, President of the National Air Disaster Safety Alliance


Thirty-eight people were killed and 30 were injured when a plane crashed in Kinshasa on Thursday, according to a new toll from the Democratic Republic of Congo ministry of humanitarian affairs.

"This plane had on board, as well as the three crew members, 20 passengers who all died," the ministry said in a statement.

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Fifteen other people were killed and 30 injured on the ground when the Antonov 26 crashed into a crowded district of eastern Kinshasa, according to reports by MONUC, the United Nations Mission to DRC.

The plane hit several houses in the heavily populated neighborhood of Kimbaseke, near the airport from which it had just taken off, MONUC added.

The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo said earlier that 25 people were killed in the crash. Current wire reports are still reporting the lesser number. There is a reason for this.

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MONUC reports that civil aviation authorities had said 19 people were reported to be on board, while police reported nobody had survived the crash and fire but officials said planes often gave incorrect passenger manifests to avoid paying taxes.

This aviation catastrophe comes on the heels of a June 21st  incident when 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. This incident was not widely reported in the United States, except by OpEdNews.

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 former Belgian colony 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.

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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.

Last year, the European Union banned all but one of the 51 carriers operating in the DRC from flying in Europe.


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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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