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Tue, Sep 02, 2008

Aid Workers Lost In Congo Accident

Beech 1900 Contracted By Virginia-Based Company

As many as 17 people are feared lost after their Beechcraft 1900 turboprop crashed into a mountainside in eastern Congo Monday afternoon.

The New York Times reports the aircraft (similar to type shown below) was ferrying 15 aid workers with the United Nations and other organizations to Bukavu, when controllers lost radar contact with the aircraft as it was on approach to the airport.

Heavy thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time of the crash, and continued storms hampered initial rescue efforts. Rescuers were only able to confirm the plane had crashed Tuesday morning, when helicopter crews overflew the accident site about nine miles northwest of the Bukavu airport.

UN peacekeepers are now attempting to hike to the wreckage on foot, though they harbor little hope of finding anyone still alive.

"From the air, it definitely seems like there were no survivors," said Christophe Illemassene, a United Nations spokesman in Congo. "The wreckage was very much spread around, and there were no major structures left. This would mean a very strong impact into the mountain wall. This plane most likely slammed into the mountain."

The plane was operated by a contractor with Air Serv International, a Virginia-based nonprofit company the flies humanitarian workers. The victims of the accident were reportedly a mix of Congolese and foreign aid workers, and the plane's two-person flight crew.

The aircraft had taken off from Kisangani, according to a statement on the Air Serv Web site.

FMI: www.airserv.org

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