South Sudan Suspends Operations of South West Aviation after it Plane Crash

By Deng Machol

Transport Minister Madut Biar
Transport Minister Madut Biar

Juba – South Sudan’s Minister of Transport has suspended operations of South West Aviation after one of its cargo planes, Antonov An-26s crashed in Juba on Saturday, burst in flames, killing eight people.

On 22 August 2020, a cargo plane belonging to a local operator, South West Aviation crashed into a farm within minutes of takeoff from Juba International airport, just hundreds of meters from Referendum residential area.

The plane was reportedly en route to Aweil and Wau towns respectively to deliver staff salaries for an organization in greater Bahr el Ghazal region.

According to reports from South Sudanese officials, including South Sudan Red Cross eight people sadly lost their lives, while a single passenger survived with injures. 

Among the nine people on board, six were South Sudanese, two Tajiks and one Ukrainian.

In a statement seen by Pan African Visions, the Country’s Transport Minister Madut Biar said the airline company will not be allowed to operate in the country until the cause of its plane crash is established.

“I suspended the company until the investigation report is presented. All the Antonov An-26 that are flying in South Sudan are all suspended,” Biar said in the statement.

Madut further stressed that the government is still unable to identify some bodies of those who perished in the plane crash because their names were not found on the manifest.

Earlier, it was reported that a crashed plane was hired by the UN World Food Programme (UN-WFP), something that the management of UN food agency denied chartering the plane.

“The aircraft did not belong to WFP and was not chartered by WFP to move cargo. The Antonov aircraft was chartered by Galaxy Star International, one of several service providers in South Sudan holding contracts with WFP and other UN agencies,” said WFP in the press statement, today, adding no WFP or UN personnel were on the flight. 

The statement further said tht WFP’s humanitarian work was not affected by the crash and our programmes in South Sudan continue to operate.  

In September 2018, a chartered Let-410 UVP belonging to the same aviation company crashed into Lake Yirol, killing at least 20 people, including an Anglican Bishop.

Following the incident, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in April 2019 banned planes spanning 20 years of service from transporting people, limiting them to cargo in a bid to curtail air.

It is the second private commercial plane to crash this month in fragile country that was blighted by a year of conflict and corruption.

Last week, a 5Y-SAV aircraft hired by Nile Hope organization reportedly hit a tree, nose-dived to the ground, then turned upside down and crashed at New Fangak in Jonglei State, northern part of the country.

A Russian-made plane that was built in 1969, it crashed, believe to be engine failure.

Juba authority has formed the investigation team to establish the cause of crash. The team is searching for the plane’s black box, which they hope will reveal the cause of the crash. 

Minister Biar said the black box of the plane would be sent to the manufacturer so that its data could be analyzed.

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