More than two dozen people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday after a small plane crashed into several homes shortly after takeoff, according to multiple reports.
The 19-seat plane, a Dornier 228-200, was owned by the private airline Busy Bee, and went down in the city of Goma in North Kivu province, the Associated Press reported.
Multiple outlets reported that 17 passengers and two crew members were killed along with several residents on the ground, though the total victim count varied, with the highest being 29 people, according to Agence France-Presse, citing a statement from the North Kivu regional government.
Heritier Said Mamadou, a Busy Bee employee, told Reuters that the plane — which was headed for the city of Berni — took off just after 9 a.m., while provincial governor Nzanzu Kasivita Carly said it crashed after “missing” its takeoff.
“I was at a restaurant with my family when I saw the plane spinning three times in the air and emitting a lot of smoke,” witness Djemo Medar told Reuters. “After that, we saw the plane crash into this house. We know the pilot. His name is Didier. He was shouting, ‘Help me, help me.’ But we had no way to get to him because the fire was so powerful.”
Local pilot Placide Kambale told the AP he was among those who rushed to help after realizing the plane was on fire.
“I called other young people from the neighborhood. They helped me to try to remove those who still moved,” he said. “We have managed to recover two that was quickly sent to the hospital.”
Plane crashes in the country are reportedly frequent due to poor maintenance and air safety standards. No commercial carriers from the country, including Busy Bee, are allowed to fly in European Union airspace due to safety concerns.
Mambo Zawadi Albertine was identified as one of the victims by SOFEPADI, a women’s rights organization for which she worked as National Coordinator.
We are heartbroken to learn one of our local DRC partners, Mambo Zawadi Albertine, @Sofepadi's National Coordinator was on the flight that crashed in Goma. She died with her husband. Our hearts go out to their family, friends, and coworkers. The world has lost amazing activist. pic.twitter.com/cRE0xq2q2G— IMPACT (@IMPACTtransform) November 24, 2019
IMPACT, an organization with which she worked as a local partner, also mourned her death, and that of her husband, too.
“We are heartbroken to learn that one of our local DRC partners … was on the flight that crashed in Goma,” the statement read. “She died with her husband. Our hearts go out to their family, friends and coworkers. The world has lost [an] amazing activist.”
Busy Bee confirmed the crash in a statement shared to its website, and said it was working with authorities to determine the cause and provide aid to the victim’s families.
“The management and staff of Busy Bee Congo express their sympathy for the families and friends of the passengers and flight crew involved,” the statement read. “At this point, we have no further information about the circumstances of the accident and Busy Bee Congo is not in a position to speculate on the causes of this tragedy.”