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Fuel Dump Cited in Africa Crash

July 7, 2002

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BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) _ The only crew member who survived the crash of a Boeing 707 in this central African country said Sunday that pilot error may have contributed to the accident that killed 23 people.

From his hospital bed, Congolese engineer Laurent Tabako said the crew may have dumped too much fuel before attempting an emergency landing Thursday at Bangui airport.

Dumping fuel is standard procedure before attempting such a landing. But Tabako said the engines stopped before the plane reached the runway, suggesting it may have run out of fuel.

Witnesses said they didn’t hear the usual engine noises when the plane crashed and saw no flames when it broke into pieces.

Tabako said the plane experienced no major difficulties after it took off from N’Djamena in Chad on route for Brazzaville in Republic of Congo, but was landing in Bangui because its wheels wouldn’t pull back up.

Air officials did not immediately comment on Tabako’s allegations. The government of Central African Republic is investigating.

The cargo plane crashed just two miles short of the runway, in a fishing community on the outskirts of the capital. Only the engineer and one passenger survived and were hospitalized with serious injuries.

The jet had 17 Chadian passengers and eight crew members from Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.

The plane, which was operating under the license of Prestige Airlines in the Republic of Congo, was owned by New Gomair, a small airline run by a group of Goma businessmen in neighboring Congo.

Central African Republic, a former French colony, is one of the world’s poorest countries.

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