Fiery Plane Crash in Congo City Kills Dozens

Fiery Plane Crash in Congo City Kills Dozens
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A 2002 aerial photo shows a broad, black flow of lava subsuming airport runways in Goma, Congo.

The lava came from nearby Mount Nyiragongo, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the city.

Runway damage caused by the lava may have played a role in the deadly crash that occurred at the airport April 15, 2008, Congolese officials told the AFP news service.

The lava effectively shortened some of the runways, which were never fully repaired, the airport sources said. Water that had pooled on the tarmac may also have caused the plane to struggle during takeoff.

A U.S. bush pilot based in Goma witnessed the crash and described it to correspondent Michael Davie.

"[The witness] said he had been watching this particular aircraft take off and land in this area over the last few weeks, and it was clear some time ago that this was an ailing aircraft," Davie told National Geographic News, "that every time it took off, it was requiring more and more of the runway before it could take to the air."

As the witness watched the plane take off on April 15, it soon became clear it would be its last flight, Davie added.

"[He] said when the plane was thundering toward the end of the runway in an attempt to take off, it suddenly threw on its brakes.

"It was clear to this American pilot that the aircraft's pilots knew that they weren't going to be able to lift off and slammed on the brakes, but it was too late."

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—Photograph by Karel Prinsloo/AP
 
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