Crash findings: Same difference

Dar es Salaam. The government yesterday released its report on the Precision Air crash on November 6 confirming the information in the leaked report from which it had earlier dissociated itself on Wednesday.

A report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch – which is under the Works and Transport ministry – started circulating in various social media platforms on Tuesday evening.

However, it was not until late on Wednesday that Gerson Msigwa, director of information services and chief government spokesperson, tweeted that the ‘leaked’ report needed to be disregarded because the appropriate authorities had not yet made it public.

He did not however trash the report content.

And, when the Minister for Works and Transport, Prof Makame Mbarawa, officially released the report during an evening press conference yesterday, what came out was that he was in agreement with a number of issues as highlighted in the ‘leaked’ document.

He only insisted that he was the only person empowered by the law to release such a report.

“I am the only person who is empowered by the law to release the findings of such a report so if there is any report that had been made public by any other person, that is not how it should be,” said Prof Mbarawa.

The report, which leaked on Tuesday, says the capacity of first responders at airports and water bodies let a lot to be desired.

“In addition, there should be well-structured and coordinated aviation and marine search and rescue operations,” the report says, noting that official search operations were delayed, and rescuers who arrived at the scene were ill-equipped.

According to the report, there was a fire station in Bukoba which was equipped with one fire engine and manned by 10 firemen, who were trained to carry out rescue operations on land.

The firemen were not equipped for offshore operations which were required after the plane crashed into the lake.

The police marine unit was notified 15 minutes after the crash, but arrived at the scene five hours later as its sole rescue boat was elsewhere on patrol when the accident occurred. The boat arrived at the scene at 1.49pm, but divers were unable immediately to launch a search and rescue operation because they lacked oxygen, and the vessel did not have enough fuel.

Prof Mbarawa confirmed during his late evening press conference yesterday that indeed the boat that is meant for rescue operations arrived at the area of the accident too late.  He said the boat used for rescue operations is also used for patrol services for a much wider area of Lake Victoria. “As such, when the accident happened, it was far from Bukoba Airport on other patrol operations…It reached the accident area after the rescue operations have been completed,” said Prof Mbarawa. He said the government will continue to work with other stakeholders in improving rescue operations.

He noted however that the fishermen who engaged in saving the lives of those who were involved in the accident, were actually doing their part in line with the international law on safety of life at sea which Tanzania is a signatory to.

In line with the leaked report and as confirmed by Prof Mbarawa, the accident – which killed 19 people – was partly caused by bad weather which changed drastically as the plane was approaching Bukoba Airport.

After the crash, Prof Mbarawa said, the fishermen reached the area five minutes later. Their arrival, he said, gave cabin crew and passengers the courage to open the door after realizing that there were people to help outside.

Earlier yesterday, opposition politician Zitto Kabwe castigated the government for attempting to distance itself from the report after it leaked.

“The same report which the government is trying to deny, was also sent to the international aviation security body,” Mr Kabwe said.

The said initial report which was in the social media since November 22, 2022; revealed some errors, noting the respective rescuing team that was informed 15 minutes after the accident, yet they arrived five hours later, and divers had no oxygen in their respective cylinders.

Moreover, few hours later, the Chief Government Spokesman Gerson Msigwa through his social media accounts, pleaded for the public to ignored saying the report never came from proper government channels.

“Following the precision air incident in Bukoba on 6 November 2022, investigation on what transpired the accident – its causes, was still underway, the government is yet to make the initial report public and that what was in the social media should be ignored.” The post reads partly.

Therefore, Mr Zitto was of the view that by any means the government should act on all perpetrators by holding them accountable but if it was hesitating trying protecting them, then it should apologies publicly.

“It’s unfortunate, instead of wiping tears of the bereaved, you are hurting them more, how can you distance from the report the report. If you have failed to hold them accountable, then apologize publicly,” Mr Kabwe observed.

Mr Kabwe’s statement, comes at a time when stakeholders and other aviation experts urging the government to act as a matter of urgency and strengthen its search and rescue units in order to save lives after accidents.