A report by the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ Directorate of Accident investigations on the crash of the light aircraft CESSNA 208B/A2-AKD in 20011 offers a graphic picture into the death of nine tourists.
According to the explosive report the aircraft engine lost power during take off at Xaxanaka airfield and collided with a tree and crashed approximately 600 metres from the airfield. Only two of the 11 occupants survived. The investigations have showed that most of the occupants were conscious after crash but later perished in the aircraft after it was engulfed by raging fire. “One of the surviving passengers stated that she was assisted to unbuckle the seat belt by a passenger who perished in the accident. Even when the aircraft was being consumed by fire witness reports stated that cries and wailing were heard from the trapped passengers,” read the report. The report further states that since most of the occupants were elderly people, it was difficult for them to quickly exit the aircraft after crash.
“It was also reported that the pilot and some occupants appeared to be unconscious by the time the aircraft came to stop and could not egress the aircraft.” The postmortem according to the report indicated that the cause of death for the pilot and passengers was due to multiple injuries and fire burns. Two passengers who survived according to the report exited the aircraft from the pilot’s door to the fire spreading into the cabin. The occupant who exited the aircraft according to the report was not affected by the fire but sustained a leg injury as she was getting out of the aircraft. “The second occupant sustained serious burn injuries and he later succumbed to his injuries before being evacuated to the hospital.” A passenger who was seated at the rear of the aircraft tried but failed to open the passenger door according to the report. “…The passenger kicked the window on the passenger door which enabled three passengers to exit the aircraft.
The passenger later stated that he was not aware that there was a large cargo door on the right hand side of the aircraft because the pilot did not brief the joining passengers at Xaxanaka upon boarding the aircraft. One of the passengers who exited the aircraft from the window also succumbed to his injuries after ten days in the hospital,” read the report. According to the report the aircraft that was within Xaxanaka area heard the pilot transmitting a ‘mayday’ call a few days before the plane crashed and alerted other aircrafts. Mayday – is an emergency language in the aviation industry. Immediately after the aircraft crashed there was confusion as to what should be done to assist those in the aircraft.
The investigators said that while the people within the area tried to mobilise assistance, the site was inaccessible by road and the rescuers had to walk a short distance and cross water channels to arrive at the site. “The rescuers were not well equipped to fight the ensuing fire, which was raging. According to the witness report, the first people to arrive had a few hand-held fire extinguishers and two buckets, hence they were left helpless,” read the report.