Guardian (London), October 22, 2010
A plane crash which killed a British pilot and 19 others could have been caused by an escaped crocodile, it was reported today.
The aircraft plummeted to the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo when the reptile, which had been smuggled into the cabin, sparked panic among passengers, the unnamed sole survivor told magazine Jeune Afrique.
A British expert, who is investigating the crash for the Department for Transport (DfT), said he could not rule out a crocodile as the cause, but added it would be “extremely unlikely”.
First Officer Chris Wilson, from Gloucestershire, was among those killed when the Let-410 plane crashed on 25 August.
It was travelling from Kinshasa to Bandundu when the plane went down, not far from its destination in an area of straw-covered huts.
According to reports, the accident followed a stampede of terrified passengers fleeing the crocodile after it freed itself from a sports bag in which it had been carried on board.
Tim Atkinson, of the Air Accidents Investigations branch of the DfT, dealing with the accident from the UK, said: “If this were the cause of the accident it is truly extraordinary.
“I would say it’s extremely unlikely this story holds water but I wouldn’t rule it out completely.”
He added that there had been reports of passengers making their way to the front of the aircraft prior to landing, which may have led to the crash.