GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — A small passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday in Congo’s eastern city of Goma, killing 26 people, including passengers, crew and people on the ground, the government said.
The 19-seater aircraft crashed into residential homes in the Mapendo district near Goma’s airport in the North Kivu province shortly after takeoff, according to the government. Black smoke rose from the plane in the morning, whose wreckage could be seen amid destroyed homes as dozens of men tried to help with the rescue efforts. The smoke cleared as rescue workers carried bodies in stretchers and hundreds gathered at the scene.
The Dornier 228-200 was owned by private carrier Busy Bee and was headed to Beni, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Goma in the same province.
The provisional death toll jumped to 26 dead later Sunday, including 17 passengers, two crew members and seven residents in Goma, the Ministry of Transportation said after collecting information from other government departments.
The government extended its condolences to all the families of those killed.
Earlier, the National Border Health Program said there were two survivors, including a crew member, who were being cared for at a local hospital.
Placide Kambale, a local pilot, said he took a taxi to the scene of the crash to help out. When he got there, the plane was on fire.
“I called other young people from the neighborhood, they helped me to try to remove those who still moved,” he said. “We have managed to recover two that was quickly sent to the hospital,” but then the fire expanded.
The U.N. mission in Congo said it sent an Emergency Crash and Rescue team with two fire engines to support Congolese authorities.
Plane crashes are frequent in the central African nation of Congo because of poor maintenance and relaxed air safety standards. None of Congo’s commercial carriers, including Busy Bee, are allowed to fly into European Union airspace because of safety concerns.
Associated Press reporter Justin Kabumba contributed this report.