A small airliner crashed into a house, killing a British pilot and 19 others after a crocodile smuggled onto the aircraft in a sports bag escaped and sparked a panic and stampede inside the aircraft's cabin.
The small plane was thrown off balance by the shift in weight inside the cabin as the panicked passengers rushed forward trying to avoid the reptile. It has only now emerged that a lone survivor apparently told investigators about the crocodile, reports the Telegraph online.
39-year-old First Officer Chris Wilson, 39, died alongside Belgian pilot 62-year-old Danny Philemotte, 62, when the twin-engined plane crashed into a house a few hundred yards from its destination in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The occupants of the property were outside at the time. The plane came down despite no apparent mechanical problems during an internal flight from the capital, Kinshasa, to Bandundu regional airport on August 25.
A report of the incident by news organisation Jeune Afrique said: “According to the inquiry report and the testimony of the only survivor, the crash happened because of a panic sparked by the escape of a crocodile hidden in a sports bag,” according to the UK Metro.
“One of the passengers had hidden the animal, which he planned to sell, in a big sports bag, from which the reptile escaped as the plane began its descent into Bandundu. The terrified air hostess hurried towards the cockpit, followed by the passengers.”
The plane was then sent off-balance ‘despite the desperate efforts of the pilot’, said the report. “The crocodile survived the crash before being cut up with a machete.”
Mr Wilson’s mother 78-year-old Jean paid tribute to her son in her local paper in Shurdington, Gloucestershire. She said: “He loved flying and he worked hard to fulfil his dream of becoming a pilot. He had three jobs at once just to pay for his training. He absolutely adored flying.”
“I’m very proud of him for working so hard. He loved life and did everything he could to achieve his dream. There have been so many messages from people he has known through the years. We didn’t realise so many people cared for him,” she added in the Metro report.
The plane was a Czech-made Let L-410 Turbolet, one of more than 1,100 produced as short-range transport aircraft and used mainly for passenger services