KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – Eastern African aviation had another bad day yesterday when a light aircraft crashed in Kenya with a minister and an assistant minister on board, while in Khartoum an A310 of Sudan Airways crashed and exploded on landing killing scores of people on board.
Kenyan Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones and Home Affairs Assistant Minister
Lorna Laboso were en-route to monitor some parliamentary by-election in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya when their light aircraft crashed en route to their destination Kericho.
Both of them were part of the Orange Democratic Movement–Kenya party, which joined hands with President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity and other coalition partners to form a government of national unity following prolonged post election violence, after mediation by former UN head Kofi Annan.
President Kibaki promptly ordered full national mourning and all Kenyan flags are now flying on half-mast to honor the victims. Also on board was one member of their security detail and their pilot. The single-engined Cessna 210 Centurion had left Nairobi’s Wilson Airport not long after 2:00 pm.
According to aviation sources in Kenya, the pilot was reportedly communicating with air traffic control over some unspecified problems with the aircraft but crashed around 3:00 pm in Narok District, well before reaching their destination or being able to resolve the problem while airborne.
A full air accident investigation is already going underway to establish the causes of the crash while Kenya mourns in shock the third crash in five years involving government ministers.
Separately, a Sudan Airways A310 aircraft coming from Damascus via Amman crashed and exploded on landing around 8:00 pm local time with some 200 passengers and 14 crew on board. According to sources in Khartoum about 120 passengers and most of the crew seem to have survived the crash while the casualty count presently stands at nearly 30 with scores of other passengers and 1 crew still unaccounted for.
The plane had reportedly been diverted to Port Sudan upon bad weather caused by heavy dust- and thunderstorms over Khartoum. The accident occurred when the plane returned to Khartoum. According to reports, the plane was already on the ground when an explosion ripped through one of its engines and a fire then engulfed the entire plane.
Sudan Airways presently operates a fleet of aged first generation Airbus wide-bodied aircraft for their longer flights.
The airline has in the past been struggling with sanctions from the US and had problems maintaining its Boeing fleet and subsequently had to opt for European manufactured Airbus aircraft.
Sudan has a poor aviation record, and Sudan Airways has lost planes in the past
with their most recent major accident being the total loss of a B737 flying from Port Sudan to Khartoum in 2003 with the loss of 115 lives. Earlier this year, a Southern Sudanese private airline suffered a crash that killed the Government of South Sudan Defense minister and senior the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army officers.