SEVEN TOURISTS AND their pilot died after a light aircraft carrying 12 people crashed after takeoff and burst into flames in Botswana.
The British pilot and seven tourists from France, Sweden and Britain died following the crash, which occurred on Friday in the southern African nation’s remote Okavango Delta, according to spokesman Modipe Nkwe of the Civil Aviation Authority.
He said two French tourists and two Botswana citizens survived.
The cause is under investigation but it was unclear why it took three days to announce the fatalities.
Britain and France confirmed they had citizens aboard the flight, but Sweden said it was still investigating the reports.
The chartered Cessna 208, operated by local company Moremi Air, crashed shortly after takeoff from Xakanaka airfield in northern Botswana and was ablaze soon after.
The plane had been headed for a luxury safari camp on Pom Pom island.
Moremi Air CEO Sue Smart said that the company has grounded its entire fleet while investigations proceed. She said the pilot was the company’s general manager and “our most seasoned pilot with over 12,000 hours of flying.”
Botswana’s Monitor newspaper quoted one local survivor, vehicle inspector Bernard Lottering, as saying that after the aircraft crashed to the ground he kicked out a window and got out.
As the plane caught fire, he said he managed to pull out his colleague and dragged two other passengers to safety.
The paper also quoted Dr Maxwell Mungisi, superintendent of Letsholathebe Hospital in Maun, as saying that the bodies of those who died were “burnt beyond recognition” and that only DNA tests could identify them.
The paper reported that rescuers had difficulty reaching the scene because of the rough terrain.