Southern Sudan's defence minister among those killed in major plane crash

Friday, May 2, 2008
Southern Sudan Air Connection aircraft has crashed today in SouthernSudan, killing over a dozen people, including the area's defence minister.

There are conflicting reports on how many people were on board and how many died in the Bahr Gazal crash, but at least twenty people were on board. Some sources suggest nineteen fatalities and two survivors, and others say there were 26 deaths and no survivors; it should be noted that if either of these were correct then there were more than twenty on board. Lieutenant General Dominic Dim Deng, the area's defence minister, is confirmed to be dead.

"The plane had been rented from a charter company and was carrying a delegation of leaders from the (former rebel) Sudan People's Liberation Movement from Wau to the capital Juba," said Luka Mariak, spokesman for the Souther Sudan president Salva Kiir. This makes the journey around 450 kilometres (290 miles), with the plane crashing in a flat region 375 kilometres (around 220 miles) from Juba. It is reported it subsequently caught fire.

The United Nationssaid that the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) had dispatched a helicopter to assist the emergency response effort.

Justin Yak and his wife are also confirmed to be dead. Yak was the minister for cabinet affairs until a 2007 reshuffle left him removed from office. Bodies were flown into Juba Airport were relatives waited for hours for news. UNMIS is expected to fly the bodies on to their nearby airfield, to which there is no public access.

The disaster is thought to be an accident caused by mechanical trouble. The pilot had contacted Air Traffic Control (ATC) to report engine problems and requested permission to conduct an emergency landing at nearby Rumbek. ATC lost contact minutes later.

Source: IRIN News