JUBA –– A Soviet-era Antonov-12 transport plane crashed today shortly after take-off from the airport in Juba, South Sudan, killing 15 people on the plane, a South Sudanese presidential spokesman told CNN.
The South Sudan Red Cross said on Facebook that it had collected more than 35 bodies at the site. It wasn’t clear whether those included people killed on the ground.
Ateny Wek Ateny, a Press secretary in the South Sudan President’s Office, said 18 people were aboard the flight: 12 South Sudanese passengers and six crew members –– five Armenians and one Russian. Three people survived: two South Sudanese passengers and an infant boy less than a year old, Ateny said.
He had said earlier that there were 19 people aboard the plane, 17 of whom died.
The cause of the crash might have been engine failure, Ateny said, although he cautioned this had not been confirmed. He said a witness saw one engine fail before the plane crashed.
The plane crashed less than 100 yards from the White Nile River at 9 a.m. today, the spokesman said. A photo published by a local news organization showed the charred wreckage of a plane in the reeds near the riverbank.
The plane was bound for the South Sudanese townof Paloich, in an area of oil fields in the north of the country.
The Antonov-12 was registered in Tajikistan, but it was not immediately clear who owned the aircraft, Ateny said. It was loaded with foodstuff, he said.
According to the Aviation Safety Network website, which has records of aircraft by their registration number, the plane made its first flight in 1971.
South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011.