19 dead after plane crash-landed in Tanzania - Tanzanian Prime Minister

A Precision Air flight carrying 43 people made a crash landing into Lake Victoria while attempting to reach a nearby airport in Tanzania.

 Rescuers attempt to recover the Precision Air passenger plane that crashed into Lake Victoria in Bukoba, Tanzania, November 6, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Rescuers attempt to recover the Precision Air passenger plane that crashed into Lake Victoria in Bukoba, Tanzania, November 6, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

At least 19 people were killed when a plane operated by Tanzania's Precision Air crash-landed into Lake Victoria on approach to the lakeside city of Bukoba, the country's prime minister said.

"All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 people … who have lost their lives," Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told reporters in Bukoba.

What happened?

The plane left the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and "crash-landed" at 8:53 a.m. (0553 GMT) as it was approaching Bukoba airport, Precision Air - Tanzania's largest privately owned airline - said in a statement.

The cause was not immediately clear, but the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) said the incident took place amid storms and heavy rains.

 A view of rescue mission of Precision Air plane, at Lake Victoria, Tanzania, November 6, 2022, in this still image obtained from a social media video (credit: Kanyika/ @startvtanzania1/via REUTERS) A view of rescue mission of Precision Air plane, at Lake Victoria, Tanzania, November 6, 2022, in this still image obtained from a social media video (credit: Kanyika/ @startvtanzania1/via REUTERS)

A witness told TBC he saw the plane flying unsteadily as it approached the airport in poor visibility conditions, saying it took a turn for the airport but missed and went into the lake.

Video and pictures circulating on social media showed the plane almost fully submerged, with only its green and brown-colored tail visible above the water line of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake.

Rescuers in boats rushed to the wreckage, which was almost fully submerged, to pull out trapped passengers, local authorities said.

Footage from the broadcaster showed scores of residents standing along the shoreline and others wading into the shallow waters, as rescuers carried on with their efforts.

Rescue workers were in touch with the pilots in the cockpit and were attempting to pull the plane from the lake, Albert Chalamila, the chief administrator of Tanzania's Kagera region told reporters.

TBC later quoted Chalamila as saying three bodies had been pulled from the aircraft.

The plane was carrying 39 passengers, including an infant, as well as four crew members, the airline said.

Rescue workers were initially in touch with the pilots in the cockpit, Albert Chalamila, chief administrator of Tanzania's Kagera region, told reporters. The prime minister later said the pilots may have died.

Precision Air identified the aircraft as an ATR42-500. The Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

First introduced almost 40 years ago, the ATR42 is the smaller of two series of short-haul turboprops made by ATR, a joint venture of Airbus AIR.PA and Leonardo LDOF.MI. The last fatal accident was in 2017, according to aviation-safety.net, a safety database.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan called for calm as the rescue operation continued.

"I have received with sadness the news of the accident involving Precision Air's plane," she tweeted. "Let's be calm at this moment when rescuers are continuing with the rescue mission while praying to God to help us."