29 March 2005

Uganda: Govt Writes to DR Congo Over Arrested Pilot

Entebbe — The Ugandan government has written to their counterpart in Kinshasa requesting for a preliminary report into the cause of the plane crash at Beni Airport on Thursday.

The government has also expressed concerned about the Ugandan pilot, Mr Stephen Eryaku, who has been in detention for four days without authorities in Congo communicating to Ugandan authorities.

On Thursday a Ugandan pilot, was arrested in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a light passenger aircraft he was piloting crashed soon after takeoff.

"We have written to Kinshasa Civil Aviation Authority requesting for a preliminary report about the crash. But they have not replied yet.

"Its after the report that we shall establish the grounds why the Ugandan pilot is being held in Beni," the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority spokesman, Mr Ignie Igunduura, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Igunduura expressed surprise at the arrest of the pilot.

"It's not normal practice in the aviation industry to hold the crew after an incidence or accident," he said.

Details from Beni confirm that two people, including a woman and a man who were on the runways at Beni airport, were killed when the wings of the shattered plane hit them.

The pilot, Eryaku who escaped with slight injuries was consequently arrested by Beni airport authorities in connection with the accident.

He was piloting a light Cessna-310 airplane, Reg. No 5X AJF, which left Entebbe International Airport on Thursday for Beni but has not returned.

A pilot at Entebbe Airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aircraft crashed into a building at Beni Airport killing two unidentified people on the runway.

According to a brief the pilot received from Beni, Eryaku was taxing the aircraft uphill when strong winds forced the plane to swerve towards the terminal building at the airport.

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