Cletus Mushanawani News Editor
PRELIMINARY investigations into the cause of the Vumba plane crash, which claimed six lives on Monday have pointed to misjudgement of the altitude by the pilot as well as bad weather, The Manica Post can reveal.
A meeting was held at Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Cde Mandi Chimene’s office between members of the Joint Operations Command, Green Motor Services management, Zimra and their Mozambican counterparts on Wednesday to get a full appraisal of what could have transpired.
Full-scale investigations are now underway as civil aviation experts from Mozambique arrived in the country on Wednesday afternoon to join their Zimbabwean counterparts in the investigations.
The Islander BN-2A-300 light aircraft, Registration Number C9-AOV was on its way to Mutare Aerodrome when it crashed in the Vumba Mountain on Monday morning around 6am. Six people among them Beira-headquartered Green Motor Services directors perished in the crash.
Green Motor Services (GMS) runs Mutare Dry Port and its four directors who perished in Monday’s crash include Adelino DeJesus Fortes Mesquita (managing director), Isac Noor (finance director), Antonio Jeorge Ucucho (legal advisor) and Banele Sibanda (finance and administration manager).
The plane’s pilot, Lopes Luis Dos Santos and his son who was acting as his assistant, Rui Fonseca Pereira Dos Santos also died.
In an interview at Doves Funeral Parlour, a cousin of one of the late directors, Noor, Ibrahim, said
although they were still to get full details of the cause of the crash, they had gathered that the plane had diverted from its route.
“When we came here we gathered that the plane was not using its normal route. This is what we got from sources here. We cannot comment further until investigations are complete, but that is what we got. We also gathered that the pilot was an old man whose co-pilot was his son.
“We are not sure who was in control between the pilot and his son when the crash happened, but it is sad to lose relatives in such a painful way,” he said.
Investigations by The Manica Post revealed that the pilot, Lopes Luis Dos Santos was born on February 26, 1956, while his son, Rui Fonseca Pereira Dos Santos was born on October 8, 1980.
In a separate interview, director of transport in Manica Province of Mozambique, Ms Maria Da-Imaculada Gabriel, said what they had gathered so far was not conclusive.
“From what we gathered from villagers near the scene when we visited it, they said they heard a sound of plane before hearing a loud bang. They said it was misty. When the mist had cleared, that is when they realised that a plane had crashed into the Vumba Mountain.
“Traditional leaders in the area informed the police and they attended the scene with other agents. We are waiting for the civil aviation team from our country, which is on its way as we speak to partner their counterparts here to investigate the causes of the crash.
Briefing the Minister of State on Wednesday, GMS’s general manager, Mr Lawrence Takawira, said the late board members used to travel twice to Mutare for board meetings in March and October.
“Our directors were on their way to Mutare for a board meeting. Since they had other commitments in Mozambique the following day, they decided to fly to Mutare and return on the same day.
“We went to wait for them at Mutare Aerodrome on Monday morning as they were expected to land at 8.10am. We had their flight schedule with us. We were also in the company of Zimra and Immigration officials for the usual immigration procedures. We waited up to 9am, but the plane did not arrive. We communicated with our Beira office and we were told that they had left. Our late MD’s secretary said she was going to get in touch with officials at Beira International Airport to verify on the actual time when the plane left for Mutare and she phoned back saying the plane was delayed because of bad weather, but was supposed to have landed in Mutare. She said the plane had taken off at 7.30am. By 10am, the plane was nowhere in sight.
“Around 11am, a Mutare City Council employee manning the aerodrome rushed to us with his mobile phone saying someone wanted to talk to me. I took the phone and there was a man speaking on the other end of the phone. He asked for the flight number saying he had heard that there was a plane crash in Vumba. He promised to call back and he did that after 15 minutes and broke the news that indeed that the plane carrying our directors had crashed in Vumba and there were no survivors. We were all shocked,” said Mr Takawira.
He said they confirmed the crash as they were scaling up the mountain when they came across the company’s financial statements that were scattered all over the mountain.
The bodies of the three directors were repatriated to Mozambique on Wednesday and Cde Chimene escorted them to Forbes Border Post.
The Dos Santos’ bodies were taken to Harare enroute to Maputo, while Sibanda’s body was taken to Harare for burial scheduled to take place on Tuesday.