Onboard Crocodile Involved In Congo Crash?

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The story of a crocodile getting loose in the cabin of a Let L-410 Turbolet and precipitating a 20-fatality crash on short final in the Democratic Republic of Congo was widely published Thursday, and does not match earlier reports. According to the new story from Telegraph.co.uk, testimony from the lone survivor of the Aug. 25 crash has led investigators to believe the smuggled crocodile escaped a carry-on "sports bag" at the rear of the cabin, motivating passengers to charge the cockpit in panic. The aircraft was on short final at the time, and the sudden transfer of weight, according to the Telegraph, sent the plane "off-balance" and caused the crash. One passenger, and the crocodile, survived, according to the Telegraph. The crocodile was then killed by rescuers with a machete, the newspaper said. Early reports of the crash universally did not include a crocodile but did suggest more familiar possibilities. Among them is a French language news report that includes an earlier account of the survivor's testimony -- sans crocodile.

The crash aircraft, a 19-passenger Let L-410 Turbolet, a high-wing, twin-engine turboprop, struck an unoccupied house within roughly 100 meters of its destination, the regional airport at Bandundu. An early report dated the day of the crash states the aircraft crashed "after an abortive attempt to land." It noted "there was no explosion" and quoted a local politician who said, "Subject to expert opinion ... the presumed cause could be a lack of fuel." There was no mention of a crocodile. An Aug. 27 report published in French said the aircraft's operator, FilAir, rejected reports of fuel starvation. According to that account, FilAir spokesman John Mbu said, "Because after checking, there were at least 150 liters of kerosene in the tanks." That translates to about 40 gallons for an aircraft with a normal fuel burn of about 90 gallons per hour. According Mbu, the sole survivor at that time said the pilot was to land on an emergency strip next to the runway. When the aircraft was on final, the passengers saw the nose was not lined up with the runway, they shouted, and [strictly translated] all of them went into the cockpit.