Pilot of plane hit by explosion describes unfolding scene

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The pilot of a passenger plane that was damaged in an explosion and fire over Somalia described on Wednesday how the crew jumped into action to fly the plane back to Mogadishu airport and keep the passengers calm even as smoke enveloped the passenger cabin and wind rushed through a hole blown through the fuselage.

See Full Article

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Serbian captain Vlatko Vodopivec said he and others were told the explosion was caused by a bomb, though civil aviation authority officials said Wednesday they had found no evidence so far of a criminal act in Tuesday's blast aboard the Airbus 321 jetliner.

"It happened at about 11,000 feet," Vodopivec said. "It was my first bomb; I hope it will be the last."

The 64-year-old has flown for several European and African companies in a long piloting career.

"When we heard a loud bang, the co-pilot went back to the cabin to inspect the damage and I took over the commands as the procedure demands," he said, adding that the engines and hydraulics functioned normally so he had no problem flying the aircraft back to Mogadishu.

"Smoke came into the cockpit, but it was mostly concentrated in the back of the aircraft," he said in a telephone interview from a UN military base in Mogadishu before he was to fly to Athens, Greece. "The stewardesses did a great job calming down the passengers and following the emergency procedure."

He said the crew included an Italian co-pilot and two Greek, two Kenyan and one Bosnian flight attendant.

"We were told one person was sucked out of the plane, but that is still not confirmed," he added.

Cellphone video taken aboard the plane pans from passengers, some wearing oxygen masks, in seats toward the back of the airliner in flight, and then swivels to the empty front area with a hole in the side of the cabin. There is a loud sound of rushing air. The video was taken by Awale Kullane, Somalia's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, and obtained by The Associated Press.

The passengers bunched in the back appear calm. A child wearing an oxygen mask attached to the overhead compartment sits quietly, a blanket covering the legs. Near the hole, oxygen masks dangle and sway from overhead compartments.

Investigators moved the plane from the runway to a private hangar. Foreign technical experts were involved in the inquiry, said Ali Mohamoud, an aviation official at the Mogadishu airport.

Two passengers on board the flight that was headed to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa said they heard a loud bang that left a hole in the passenger cabin.

Awale Kullane, Somalia's deputy ambassador to the UN who was on board the flight, said on Facebook that he "heard a loud noise and couldn't see anything but smoke for a few seconds." When visibility returned they realized "quite a chunk" of the plane was missing, he wrote.

An official investigation is underway and a preliminary report will be issued later this week, officials said.

Daallo Airlines said in a brief statement posted on its Facebook page that the Airbus A321 plane was operated by Hermes Airlines. It said the plane "experienced an incident shortly after take-off."

"The Aircraft landed safely and all of our passengers were evacuated safely. A thorough investigation is being conducted by Somalia Civil Aviation Authority," the Daallo statement said.

Hermes Airlines is based in Athens. Its main business is providing planes on a "wet lease" basis, meaning it leases insured planes staffed and serviced by its crew to other carriers.

Hermes' fleet includes four A321s, one Airbus A320 and one Boeing 737, according to its website

Mohamed Hassan, a police officer in Balad, an agricultural town 30 kilometres north of Mogadishu, said residents had found the dead body of ay man who might have fallen from a plane.

Somalia faces an insurgency perpetrated by the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which is responsible for many deadly attacks across the nation.

Stojanovic reported from Belgrade, Serbia. AP writer Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • N.S. premier calls an election

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has called a provincial election for May 30, seeking a second consecutive mandate from voters. McNeil dropped the writ this afternoon after meeting with Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant at Government House in Halifax. Source
  • Suspected U.S. airstrike kills 4 al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen

    World News CTV News
    SANAA, Yemen -- A suspected U.S. airstrike killed four al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen's eastern province of Marib on Sunday, Yemeni tribal and security officials said. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, say the operatives killed were driving a car when an unmanned aircraft targeted their vehicle. Source
  • Tornadoes, flooding kill at least 6 in parts of U.S. South, Midwest [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANTON, Texas — Severe storms including tornadoes have swept through several small towns in East Texas, leaving a trail of overturned vehicles, mangled trees and damaged homes. Authorities believe at least four people were killed and dozens injured, though they were still assessing the damage from the storms that swept through an area about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of Dallas on Saturday evening. Source
  • Emotional encounter between organ recipient and donor family

    Canada News CTV News
    On Saturday Saskatoon’s Jillian Langen, 28, finally met the family of the person who saved her life. “It’s almost like meeting family that you didn’t know you had,” Langen told CTV Saskatoon. Langen had been suffering from cystic fibrosis which had destroyed her lungs when she received a double lung transplant from 23-year-old Leanne Germain, who had died in Feb. Source
  • Trump warns North Korea's missiles will get better

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- U.S. President Donald Trump said after North Korea's latest failed rocket launch that communist leader Kim Jong-Un will eventually develop better missiles, and "we can't allow it to happen." In a taped interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," the president would not discuss the possibility of military action, saying: "It is a chess game. Source
  • Donald Trump: Kim Jong Un 'a pretty smart cookie' for being able to hold onto power

    World News Toronto Sun
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — U.S. President Donald Trump said in a television interview to be aired Sunday that he believes China’s president has been putting pressure on North Korea as it pursues its missile and nuclear weapons programs. Source
  • Search continues for Canadian woman missing in Belize

    Canada News CTV News
    A group of expats are searching along small roads, trails and in the bush of a town in Belize where a Canadian woman and her American boyfriend were reported missing, a friend said. Joe Milholen said he was supposed to take Francesca Matus, 52, to the airport Wednesday morning to fly back to Canada. Source
  • Nova Scotians to go to the polls on May 30

    Canada News CBC News
    Nova Scotians are heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 30. The election call came Sunday after Premier Stephen McNeil visited Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant and requested he dissolve the current House of Assembly. The 30-day campaign is the minimum allowed under Nova Scotia's election laws. Source
  • Nova Scotia election to be held Tuesday, May 30

    Canada News CBC News
    Nova Scotians are heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 30. The election call came Sunday after Premier Stephen McNeil visited Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant and requested he dissolve the current House of Assembly. The 30-day campaign is the minimum allowed under Nova Scotia's election laws. Source
  • 'Heartbreaking' destruction from deadly Texas tornadoes [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANTON, Texas — Severe storms including tornadoes have swept through several small towns in East Texas, leaving a trail of overturned vehicles, mangled trees and damaged homes. Authorities believe at least four people were killed and dozens injured, though they were still assessing the damage from the storms that swept through an area about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of Dallas on Saturday evening. Source