Tanzania Air crash: ‘I tried to save pilots but was knocked unconscious’

A fisherman who was among the first on the scene when a jet crashed into Tanzania’s Lake Victoria on Sunday, killing 19 people, has spoken about his attempts to save the pilots who were trapped in the cockpit and how he almost perished while doing so.

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Majaliwa Jackson has been recognized as a hero, given 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($430; £370), and been given the opportunity to join the fire and rescue brigade.

Before the government statement, Mr. Jackson told the BBC that he panicked when he saw the passenger plane approaching from the incorrect way and then crashing into the lake. Mr. Jackson was speaking from his hospital bed in the lakeside hamlet of Bukoba.

Along with three other fishermen, he arrived at the scene quickly and assisted in breaking open the plane’s back door so that those trapped within could be rescued.

Then, according to Mr. Jackson, he moved to the front and dove into the sea. The two pilots then used signs to communicate with one another through the cockpit window.

“He told me to rip the window screen open. When airport security arrived, I asked them if they had any tools we could use to destroy the screen as soon as I got out of the water.

“They gave me an axe, but I was stopped by a man with a public announcement speaker from going down and smashing the screen. He said they were already in communication with the pilots and there was no water leakage in the cockpit,” Mr Jackson said. He added that after being stopped he “dived back and waved goodbye to the pilot”. But the pilot then indicated that he still wanted to be rescued.

“He pointed out the cockpit emergency door to me. I swam back up and took a rope and tied it to the door and we tried to pull it with other boats, but the rope broke and hit me in the face and knocked me unconscious.

The next thing I know I was here at the hospital,” Mr Jackson said. Both pilots are among the 19 confirmed fatalities after the plane – operated by Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest private airline – crashed near the shore of the lake.

According to Precision Air, there were 24 survivors out of the 43 individuals on board.

At a funeral service being held at the neighborhood football stadium in Bukoba, mourners have been paying respect and passing by the coffins of the 19 fatalities.

Kassim Majaliwa, the prime minister of Tanzania, is one of the attendees.

He had earlier promised a thorough investigation to determine what caused the collision.

On Sunday, the aircraft departed from Dar es Salaam, the nation’s economic hub, and made a scheduled stop in Mwanza. As the aircraft approached Bukoba Airport at around 08.50 local time (05.50 GMT), it crashed.

Airport operations have been suspended until further notice.

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