Airline official says plane crashed in Congo

July 8, 2011 - 12:14 PM

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — A passenger plane crashed Friday on its way from Congo's capital to a northeastern city, the airline's chief said, the latest of several crashes that have plagued the country's largest airline.

Stavros Papaioannou, the chairman and CEO of Hewa Bora Airways, said he could not say how many people may have died in Friday afternoon's crash. Congo's government spokesman said there were at least 40 survivors.

Papaioannou said the plane left the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, and was headed northeast to the provincial capital of Kisangani.

"I confirm the crash of one of our planes," he said. "I don't yet have the details but it's sure that some of the people died."

Sabiti Mwamba, the director of the Congolese Aviation Authority, said the plane likely went down due to bad weather.

"The crash was due to the bad weather at the moment when the plane was landing," Mwamba said.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the plane went down a few meters (feet) from the Kisangani airport.

"It was due to the thunder," he said. "We have already helped take out at least 40 survivors and the rescue operation is ongoing."

Hewa Bora, which means "Fresh Air" in Swahili, has a history of crashes.

In April 2008, one of their DC-9s rammed into a bustling market after failing to lift off from Goma's airport, killing at least 40 people, most of them on the ground.

A few months later in September, a Hewa Bora plane carrying 17 people went down in inclement weather killing all on board.