A plane which crashed in 2010 while en route from Kinshasa to Bandundu airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could have been brought down by an escaped crocodile on board.
The Daily Mail reported on an inquest at Gloucester Coroner’s Court in which the coroner had to consider the possibility that a crocodile had been indirectly responsible for the plane crashing. The hearing was trying to establish the cause of death of the British pilot, 39-year-old Chris Wilson who died instantly alongside fellow pilot, Danny Philemotte.
The coroner was told that a stampede may have broken out over an escaped crocodile in the cabin, which caused the passengers to surge forward. The weight shift created by the panic may have affected the plane, causing it to nose dive or stall. The only surviving passenger claimed the reptile “spooked a cabin crew member,” who then ran towards the cockpit causing the passengers to follow.
Assistant Coroner David Dooley read out an email, which the pilot’s father had sent to Congolese officials, referring to a video of a crocodile on the plane, and stating that he had spoken to an accident investigator about it. The crocodile claim has not been confirmed, but it was “quite normal for animals and chickens to be carried on the plane, it was used like a taxi in this regard.”
The inquest was told that Jones had given up his previous job as a flight attendant to train as a commercial pilot. In 2010, he moved to DRC He began to fly for local company Filair to carry out the required 1,000 hours of flying needed to get a license.
However, he became very concerned about the state of the airline and the flying ability of his co-pilot, Danny Philemotte, who also owned the company. Martin Wilson, Chris’s brother, issued a statement saying:
“Every time he flew with Mr Philemotte there was always one incident or another. 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.’
Chris had told his brother that passengers walked around, making the plane unstable, and wouldn’t fasten their seat belts. Passengers often took animals on planes, and local media reports at the time claimed the crocodile had escaped from a passenger’s hold-all.
A number of different explanations had been put forward for the sudden crash, including shortage of fuel, over-loading, pilot error, engine failure, maintenance issues, and a mass surge of passengers to the front of the plane. The small plane was full, and was beginning its descent to land when it suddenly “fell out the sky like a leaf.”
Timothy Atkinson, an air accident investigator, said he had been unable to draw any definitive conclusions because they had not handed over the black box. He said, “The accident appears to have the hallmarks of a stall and spin, which may have been from a variety of causes. Essentially, it fell out of the sky.” Sabotage of the plane may also have been a possibility, as rival companies were fiercely competitive.
Mr. Dooley said there was not enough evidence to conclude any one of the factors had caused the crash. In recording an open verdict, he said, “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. I don’t believe any further efforts could have been made to obtain any more information.”
So, now we’ll never know if a crocodile was responsible or not.