Engines are focus in crash of Kenya jet

All 114 aboard died as the plane went down during a storm.

Published May 8, 2007

MBANGA-PONGO, Cameroon - Investigators focused Monday on the possibility a Kenya Airways jetliner lost power in both engines during a storm just after takeoff and was trying to glide back to the airport when it plunged into a mangrove swamp 12 miles from the runway.

All 114 people on board were killed in the crash on Saturday, officials in this West African nation said after searchers picked their way along a muddy path to the site strewn with pieces of metal, bodies and shoes.

After being delayed an hour by storms, the Kenya-bound Boeing 737-800 sent a distress signal shortly after takeoff from Douala, then lost contact 11 to 13 minutes later. It took searchers more than 40 hours to find the wreckage, most of it submerged in murky orange-brown water.

"The plane fell head first. Its nose was buried in the mangrove swamp, " said Thomas Sobakam, chief of meteorology for the Douala airport. He said the jet disintegrated on impact.

There were no survivors, said Luc Ndjodo, a local official.

A coast guard officer, Capt. Francis Ekosso, said late Monday that one of the two flight recorders had been found. He did not know the device's condition or whether it was the data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.

Officials said it was too early to tell what caused the crash of Flight 507, but investigators concentrated on the stormy weather as a possible contributor.

Experts were considering a theory that the jet's two engines flamed out because of the weather and that the craft did not have enough altitude to glide back to the airport, an official close to the airline's investigation in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, told the Associated Press.

Another official close to the investigation, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that experts were studying whether the storm caused the engines to fail.

The plane was 6 months old, said Titus Naikuni, chief executive of Kenya Airways, which is considered one of Africa's safest airlines.

The Douala-Nairobi flight is used as an intermediary flight to Europe and the Mideast. Many of the passengers, who were from 27 nations, were booked to transfer to other flights in Nairobi.

Fast Facts:


Crash victim

Associated Press correspondent Anthony Mitchell, 39, was among the 114 people that officials said were killed in the Cameroon plane crash. A native of Britain, he was known as a dogged reporter with a passion for Africa and for uncovering challenging stories. He had been on assignment to investigate the criminal trade in endangered species for food. He made global headlines last month with his in-depth investigation into the illegal detention and transfer of terror suspects from Kenya to Somalia and eventually into Ethiopian prisons.