By Pamela Shumba and Whinsley Masara
A Central Air Traffic Services (CATS) aircraft that was transporting gold from Bulawayo to Harare on Tuesday crash-landed due to engine failure, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) said yesterday.
The Cessna 206 aircraft, which had two people on board, crash landed in Kennilworth, Bubi District in Matabeleland North.
It was reportedly transporting 22 kilogrammes of gold worth about $800 000.
CAAZ acting general manager Mr Blessing Ngwarai said the pilot sent a distress signal after noticing that the engine had developed a technical fault soon after taking off from Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport in Bulawayo.
“The CATS aircraft took off from JM Nkomo Airport to Charles Prince Airport in Harare and had two people on board. The pilot communicated that he had lost the engine and indicated that he would glide and find a reasonable and safe place to land.
“Air traffic at JM Nkomo Airport lost contact with the pilot and this triggered a search. The Air Force of Zimbabwe dispatched two aircraft and one helicopter to rescue the pair,” said Mr Ngwarai.
“One of the two people on board the aircraft sustained minor injuries. The two got assistance from the Air force of Zimbabwe personnel. They were taken to Harare and they’re safe,” said Mr Ngwarai.
He declined to comment on the gold that was being transported by the aircraft saying investigations were underway.
“As CAAZ we don’t inspect people’s cargo. When we respond to such incidents we look at what happened not the cargo. However, investigations are in progress and I’m yet to be briefed on the other details,” he said.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the incident.
“I can confirm that there’s an aircraft that crash landed in Bubi District on Tuesday afternoon. The aircraft was transporting gold but I don’t have the value,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
Villagers in Bubi said the aircraft flew a few metres above their homesteads before they heard a loud noise a few kilometres away.
Ward 15 village head Mr John Mutambo said they rushed to the scene and discovered that the aircraft had crash landed.
The village head said there was a pilot and a security guard on-board, but that could not be independently verified.
“We saw the aircraft flying above our homesteads and I thought it was rather too close. We heard a loud noise just a few kilometres away and we rushed to check what had happened.
“We found two men, a pilot and a security guard in the plane that had crash landed. The pilot explained that the aircraft developed a mechanical fault. We rushed to call the police at a nearby police base and when we came back we found an Airforce of Zimbabwe aircraft on the scene,” said Mr Mutambo.
A villager said when police arrived, they ordered them off the scene saying there was gold in the aircraft.
By end of day yesterday, the aircraft was still at the accident scene. The Chronicle