By Charles Tjatindi
While investigations into the latest plane crash at Swakopmund are continuing, members of the public and tourists in particular remain concerned about the number of plane crashes experienced lately.
Owners of tourist establishments, especially aviation companies New Era spoke to said they were very worried about the number of aircraft crashes experienced in the country.
A Cessna aircraft bound for the Swakop-mund Airport after a sightseeing flight over Sossusvlei crashed last weekend, after attempting an emergency landing.
The Cessna 210 belonging to a Swakopmund-based aviation company, with registration number V5-RGW, crashed at about 16h30 on Saturday following an engine failure. According to sources at the scene, the pilot sent out a distress call – May Day – following engine failure and attempted to land the plane in the desert, some 3 km away from the Swakopmund Airport.
When the pilot attempted to crash-land, the front tyre broke off as a result of the rough terrain, resulting in the aircraft hitting the ground with its nose and subsequently landing on its back.
The aircraft’s underbody collapsed, and its engine was left hanging from its body.
All six occupants on board, who included South African pilot Jaco Basson and five German tourists, miraculously survived the accident. The names of the tourists as supplied by the Namibian Police are: Peta Gorfent and Izak Gorfent, Stephan Ludge, Nicole Task and Gabriel Guduava.
Members of the public expressed concern that E-Med rescue staff had to drive from Walvis Bay, some 30 km away from the accident scene while a similar company, International SOS, is stationed at Swakopmund.
An inquiry with both International SOS and E-Med Rescue revealed that the Swakopmund-based company was attending to another emergency at the time. Sources at both companies, who requested anonymity disclosed that they do not necessarily respond to any emergency as they have an established base of clients shared among them.
“We would sometimes respond to a call by an International SOS client, and they would also do the same, depending on who can access the accident scene faster.
But that does not rule out worries as to who will pay for such operation. In the case of the latest plane crash, SOS was not available, so we had to drive from Walvis Bay,” noted a source at E-Med Rescue in Walvis Bay.
All passengers on board the plane and the pilot survived the plane crash. This, however, offers little comfort or consolation to tourists who are frequent fliers especially in small aircraft such as the one that crashed last weekend.
According to medical personnel at the scene, two of the visiting German tourists, Task and Guduava were rushed to Windhoek with neck and rib injuries respectively, while the pilot only sustained cuts to his face.
According to sources in the aviation industry, sightseeing flights from Sossusvlei last between two to three hours
The Director of Aircraft Accident Investigations in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Ericksson Nengola, told the media that his team has already launched investigations into the crash. Members of the investigation team were at the accident scene by daybreak on Sunday to start their investigations.
The incidents, however, worry visiting tourist Michael Schmidt and others who come to Namibia for its scenic beauty and thus frequently use small aircraft for sightseeing.
“We are left to wonder if it is really safe to fly on these small aircraft. There have just been too many crashes over such a short period of time,” said Michael Schmidt, a German national who is touring Namibia.