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Survivor Blames Pilot for Club Med Crash in Senegal

February 10, 1992

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) _ Survivors of Sunday’s crash of a chartered airliner were airlifted to Paris today as investigators in Senegal began checking assertions that pilot error was the cause. Thirty-one of the 56 people on board were killed.

The Convair 640 had been chartered by Club Med to carry tourists to its resort at Cap Skirring in southern Senegal. It crashed before dawn about 30 miles from Cap Skirring, killing 26 French passengers and five crew members, including the American pilot and co-pilot, officials said.

Club Med officials had reported 30 deaths, but Senegalese officials said today that this figure had not included a flight attendant from Gambia who died.

Senegal’s equipment minister, Robert Sanga, said the plane’s ″black box″ data recorders had been retrieved and would be examined by crash experts from Senegal, France and the United States. He told state radio that U.S. military and civilian investigators would participate.

One of 24 surviving passengers, Olivier Perret, told France’s RTL radio station that the crash occurred almost immediately after the pilot announced that the plane was about to land.

″It was complete human error,″ Perret said. ″He said we were going to land at Cap Skirring, and then we landed in the brush.″

He said the pilot apparently realized his mistake when the plane was about to touch down and tried to get the plane into a climb, but failed.

Mbagnick Ndiaye, governor of the region, told Senegal state radio that the pilot apparently mistook lights in a hotel garden for the lights of his intended landing strip.

Hotel workers who were the first on the crash scene said it took more than five hours for help to arrive because they spent nearly two hours trying to reach authorities by telephone.

″If our communications system were better, help could have come quicker and fewer people might have died,″ said handyman Seikou Silla.

He said several survivors whom he helped from the wreckage died while awaiting aid. ″We saw bodies scattered all over and heard people crying for help,″ he said.

An AP reporter who visited the site said it looked as if the plane nosedived into a muddy clearing in the middle of a mangrove swamp. Only 10 seats were intact, all in the tail piece.

The rest of the plane, twisted fuselage and engine parts blackened by fire, was scattered across 50 yards, along with passengers’ personal effects - baggage, letters and newspapers.

Two of the injured passengers were airlifted back to Paris today in a small medical plane, and others were to be brought back tonight in a Boeing 737. Of the 50 passengers, 48 were French and two Belgian.

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