Chief Pilot Now Says Plane Went Down Immediately After
Rain and swamp water continue
to hamper recovery efforts at the site of downed Kenya Airways
Flight 507 in Mbanga-Pongo, Cameroon... and speculation is
running rampant as to what may have brought the six-month-old
Boeing 737 down, and when.
The jet is submerged in the swamp just three miles from the end
of the runway where it took off early Saturday on a flight from
Douala to Nairobi, Kenya, according to the Associated Press. Failed
attempts to pump the water away from the passenger jet have all but
Xavier Clotaire Noa, a Cameroonian firefighter and search
foreman, said the muddy hole where the plane fell was "inundated
with water." Pumps initially installed to suck out the water have
been turned off.
"We tried to empty it a few times but the water keeps coming
back in," he said.
A source close to the airline's investigation, who spoke to the
AP on condition of anonymity, said Monday the early investigation
has focused on a theory the plane lost power in both engines, and
did not have enough altitude to glide back to the airport --
perhaps due to the storm that had already delayed the flight for
more than an hour prior to departure.
Kenya Airways chief Pilot James Ouma held a Nairobi news
conference on Tuesday. He said the Kenyan crash investigators at
the site now believe Flight 507, a six-month-old Boeing 737-800,
crashed about 30 seconds after takeoff. Initial reports said
contact with the aircraft was lost 11-13 minutes into flight.
This discrepancy could not immediately be explained.
Ouma noted the wreckage was found on the flight path and close
to the airport. Procedures for total power loss call for the pilot
to attempt a return to the airport along a similar path.
The plane crashing nose-first is consistent with a plane
stalling as a pilot tried to coax it along the glide path, Ouma
As ANN reported, locating the
wreckage was difficult, and ultimately took nearly two days to find
it as it was in an inaccessible area of swamps and forest,
concealed by a thick covering of trees.
Further slowing search and rescue attempts was the emergency
locator transmitter having stopped emitting signals after the
initial distress call for as-yet unknown reasons. Thomas Sobakam,
chief of meteorology for Douala airport, said officials were also
led astray by an incorrect satellite signal, possibly emitted from
Cameroon officials have not yet indicated where the flight data
recorder will be examined. Kenyan officials said Tuesday they would
prefer the examination be done in Canada, but acknowledge the
decision was up to Cameroon.
Since arriving at the crash site, rescue workers have divided
into teams, one gathering personal effects and a second, human
remains recovery. As of late Tuesday, 29 bodies have been found
according to Titus Naikuni, chief executive of Kenya Airways.
Sobakam said several positive identifications have already been
made based on identification found with individual remains.
Family members have been barred from the site to help preserve
evidence, officials said.
Naikuni said US experts and a British-led team of forensic
scientists were expected to arrive Tuesday night to aid in the
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a national day of mourning
Monday and offered condolences in a televised address.
"I wish you the strength and courage to overcome the tragic loss
of your loved ones," he said.
Air travel in Africa is notoriously perilous, but Kenya Airways
is considered one of Africa's safest airlines, said the AP. The
last crash of an international Kenya Airways flight was on January
30, 2000, when an Airbus A310 was taking off from Abidjan, Ivory
Coast, enroute to Nairobi. A faulty alarm and pilot error were
blamed for that crash, which killed 169 people.