Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plane crash attributed to escaped crocodile on board: True or not?

by B. N. Sullivan

According to a story that has popped up on several news Web sites, a crocodile may have been instrumental in causing the fatal crash of a Let L-410 turboprop aircraft earlier this year.  The gist of the story is as follows:
  • a passenger smuggled a crocodile on board in hand baggage
  • the crocodile escaped from the bag as the aircraft was descending
  • frightened at the sight of the reptile, the flight attendant and passengers rushed forward
  • this altered the aircraft's center of gravity
  • the crew lost control of the aircraft and it crashed
To be candid, I have some doubts about the veracity of these reports -- but then again, while the tale about the crocodile's role in the disaster seems far-fetched, I suppose it is not impossible.

What is certain is that the aircraft, operated by Filair, went down near Bandundu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on August 25, 2010, killing 19 people, including the crew.  There was one survivor.  Some time later he, too, was reported to have died of his injuries, but not before he was able to give a statement about the accident to investigating authorities.

Within days of the accident, the Aviation Herald reported this account:
On Aug 27th Filair said the only survivor of the crash was able to provide testimony to investigators.  According to this statement the crew had been told to land on a "reserve strip" alongside the main runway.  The passengers noticed that the airplane was not heading for the runway 11/29 (1380 meters/4530 feet long) and began shouting, then rushed to the cockpit unbalancing the aircraft to a point, where control was lost.  Fuel exhaustion was not the problem, 150 liters of fuel were recovered from the wreckage.  The black boxes were recovered from the wreckage by the Civil Aviation Authority and are being analysed.
No mention of crocodiles at that time.

Here are links to two of the news stories featuring the crocodile version on and

So, what do you think?  Does the crocodile story sound plausible?  Or do you think this is a rumor turned legend-in-the-making?

[Image Source]

RELATED:  Fatal crash of Filair Let L-410 at Bandundu, DR Congo