Plane Crashes After Crocodile Escapes, Causes Panic

The unbalanced plane crashed after passengers panicked; reptile was smuggled.

ByABC News
October 22, 2010, 11:48 AM

Oct. 22, 2010— -- A small airplane crashed in Africa, killing all but one of the passengers after a crocodile smuggled on board escaped and apparently caused a panic.

The propeller plane was approaching its destination when, according to the sole survivor's account, a crocodile hidden in somebody's carry-on bag escaped and caused a panic. Passengers stampeded to one side of the tiny plane, causing it to be thrown off-balance.

The original cause of the Aug. 25 crash was thought to be a lack of fuel. But African magazine Jeune Afrique revealed the survivor's story. The identity of the survivor is unknown.

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Africa has some of the most dangerous skies in the world. Just a few years ago, the number of major accidents per million takeoffs in Africa amounted to 4.31, compared with a worldwide average of only 0.65, according to the International Air Transport Association

The flight in the Democratic Republic of Congo was piloted by 62-year-old Belgian Danny Philemotte, who was also owner of the tiny airline, Filair. Philemotte and his first officer, 39-year-old Briton Chris Wilson, were apparently unable to maintain control of the Czech-made L-410 Turbolet once it become unbalanced.

The pilots and 18 passengers on board died when the twin-engine plane crashed into a house just short of the regional airport at Bandundu. The flight had started in the capital city of Kinshasa.

Such a crash would be rare, aviation experts said. "It's possible. It's remote," John Cox, a former airline captain and now airplane safety consultant, told ABC News. "You could run the center of gravity forward where it wouldn't be controllable. Twenty people at 200 pounds each, it's possible."