A crocodile may be responsible for a plane crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo which killed 19 people in 2010, according to a UK inquest.
The British pilot, 39-year-old Chris Wilson, died along with 18 others amid a routine flight across the Congo to Bandundu Airport on Aug. 25, 2010. Only one passenger survived and he says the whole cabin was thrust into panic when a crocodile climbed out of a hold mid-flight.
He told investigators that the crocodile spooked passengers and crew as they ran to the front of the plane. They shift in weight may have caused the crash, investigators testified on Friday.
The three-foot crocodile was reportedly brought on board in a sports bag.
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"They think it may have frightened the cabin crew member and she ran forward, with the other passengers following. The weight shift caused by the panic may have affected the plane causing it to nose dive or stall," said Assistant Coroner David Dooley.
Dooley cited an email from Wilson's father Rob Wilson during the inquest.
"Rob Wilson he said he had spoken to the original investigator on the site who said that there was a gentleman who came up with a story about a crocodile,” Dooley said. “There is apparently a video of the crocodile being taken out of the plane. They think it may have frightened the cabin crew member and she ran forward, with the other passengers following."
Experts say other possible causes include fuel shortage or engine failure.
Wilson’s brother, Martin Wilson, told the inquest that his brother was disturbed by his Filair co-pilot, Danny Philemotte.
"Everytime he flew with Mr. Philemotte there was always one incident or another,” Martin Wilson said. "He said he didn't want to fly with him anymore. He said if it wasn't for the fact they could see where they were going they wouldn't ever get anywhere because Philemotte couldn't read the instruments. He said he didn't know how Philemotte was still alive his flying was so bad."
Dooley said that lack of black box information has left the cause of the crash inconclusive.
"Problems with direct witnesses and problems with the black box have only resulted in vague guesses as to what happened with this crash. All we have are possibilities rather than probabilities,” he said. "I don't believe any further efforts could have been made to obtain any further information."
Image Credit: Derek Keats