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23 on Cargo Plane Die in Central Africa Crash

July 05, 2002|From Associated Press

BANGUI, Central African Republic — A Boeing 707 crashed in a sparsely populated area of this capital city Thursday, killing 23 people and injuring two others aboard, witnesses and officials said.

The jet was carrying passengers along with a load of onions and garlic from N'Djamena in Chad to Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo when it tried to land here because of technical problems, said officials at the regional air authority, Asecna.

It crashed about 11:15 a.m. two miles short of the runway at Bangui's international airport in clear weather, Asecna said.

Residents rushed to the scene, and some tried to carry off the food, witnesses said. The crowd gave way when soldiers, firefighters and presidential guards arrived and began searching the debris.

The Central African Republic, a former French colony, is one of the world's poorest countries.

Martin Wesio, an Asecna official in Bangui, said the plane was carrying 17 Chadian passengers and eight crew members. He said 23 people had been killed and that two survivors were hospitalized. By evening, 22 bodies had been recovered. There was no immediate word on whether anyone on the ground had been hurt.

Officials had no comment on the cause of the crash.

The plane exploded when it came down in the Guitangola neighborhood, scattering wreckage and causing the roof of an empty house to collapse, witnesses said. Bodies lay in the mud amid bags of vegetables and pieces of the plane.

"I was afraid when I saw the plane coming down, and all of a sudden I heard a loud noise, and some parts of the aircraft flew into the air and fell in the mud," said a woman on a nearby farm who gave her name only as Zara.

The plane was operating under the license of Prestige Airlines, which is based in the Republic of Congo. Jean Francois, Prestige's head of operations in Brazzaville, confirmed that a company plane had crashed but had no details. He said the airline was sending a team of inspectors to the scene.

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