In August 2010, an ATR 42-500 with the registration 5H-PWF was first delivered to Precision Air in Tanzania.
Since then, the 48-seater aircraft has been with the airline while transporting passengers, until November 6, 2022, when it dived into Africa’s largest freshwater lake when about to land in Bukoba Airport, in the Kagera region.
On this day, the aircraft took off from Dar es Salaam, then made a scheduled stop in Mwanza and then headed for Bukoba on Lake Victoria. But during the landing approach, the aircraft crashed into the lake for unknown reasons.
It sank for the most part, on board 39 passengers, including an infant, and four crew members. However, 19 of the people did not survive the crash. On board were nationalities from Tanzania (39), Kenya (2), UK (1), China (1).
After crashing into Lake Victoria, some fishermen first reached the plane, and one of them narrates how he dived down to the cockpit, reports BBC.
One of them, Majaliwa Jackson, said afterwards how he pushed open the rear door of the plane with an oar, thus opening an escape option for the people in the cabin.
Jackson – who has been officially declared a hero and awarded 1 million Tanzanian shillings (USD$430) and offered a job in the fire and rescue brigade for his efforts – said he panicked as he saw the passenger plane approach from the wrong direction, before plunging into the lake.
Dived down to the cockpit
He rushed to the scene with three fellow fishermen and helped to open the rear door by smashing it with a rowing oar which helped passengers seated towards the rear of the plane to be rescued.
Jackson said he then moved to the front and dived into the water. He and one of the pilots then communicated with each other by making signs through the cockpit window.
“He directed me to break the window screen. I emerged from the water and asked airport security, who had arrived, if they have any tools that we can use to smash the screen.
“They gave me an axe, but I was stopped by a man with a public announcement speaker from going down and smashing the screen. He said they were already in communication with the pilots and there was no water leakage in the cockpit,” Mr Jackson said.
He added that after being stopped he “dived back and waved goodbye to the pilot”.
“The rope broke and hit me”
But the pilot then indicated that he still wanted to be rescued as he had given him signs again.
“He pointed out the cockpit emergency door to me. I swam back up and took a rope and tied it to the door and we tried to pull it with other boats, but the rope broke and hit me in the face and knocked me unconscious. The next thing I know I was here at the hospital,” Jackson said.
The pilots could not be saved and are among the 19 confirmed fatalities. The ATR has since been recovered from the water.
French air accident investigators are being deployed to Tanzania to assist in the investigation
A spokesperson for France’s BEA air accident investigation agency said on Monday that it was sending a team to Tanzania along with technical advisers from Franco-Italian planemaker ATR.
Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said that the probe could take months.