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10 Americans Feared Dead in Crash of African Tourist Plane

September 02, 1999|From Times Wire Services

ARUSHA, Tanzania — A charter plane carrying 10 American tourists from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park crashed Wednesday in bad weather on the slopes of Mt. Meru, Africa's fifth-highest mountain.

"I don't know if there were any survivors, but I am not optimistic," a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

The tourists included three couples and a group of four, the spokesman said. They came from California, Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Rescuers circled the crash site in a helicopter, but low clouds and drizzle made it difficult to see and impossible to land, said Regional Police Commander Juma Ngamagwaka. The flight was en route from the park to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania to connect with another flight going to Nairobi, Kenya.

"The plane has been located, but . . . I don't know anything about survivors," Ngamagwaka said.

Margaret Munyagi, head of the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority, said the pilot of the Northern Air charter did not report any problems to the control tower.

In neighboring Kenya, Isabel Mbugua of the African Medical Research Foundation, an air rescue organization, sent a helicopter and a medical rescue team to the site, 125 miles south of Nairobi. She said villagers spotted the downed aircraft on a lower slope of the 15,067-foot mountain.

Mt. Meru is slightly north of Arusha, where most safaris to the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Ngorongoro Crater begin.

Mbugua said bad weather prevented the rescue helicopter from landing at the crash site, and a medical team was on its way there in four-wheel-drive vehicles.

She said the helicopter pilot, whom she contacted by radio, said there was movement at the site. It was not clear, however, who or what was moving.

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