November 28 - 2001
By Chimaimba Banda, Themba wa Sepotokele, Sapa-AFP and Reuters
A Boeing 747, owned by Sussex, England, freight company MK Airlines and with
apparent South African links, broke apart after it crashed as it came in to
land at Port Harcourt in south-east Nigeria early yesterday.
It is believed that the plane was the sister aircraft of the ill-fated Helderberg, which crashed of the coast of Mauritius 14 years ago today.
"We understand that five Britons have been taken to hospital, injured, but not been killed," British high commission spokesperson Jon Sharp said. Thirteen crew members were believed to have been on board.
In South Africa, an informed source said there were two South African engineers on the flight - a ground and a flight engineer.
The information could not be independently conformed last night.
It is believed that the body of South African actor Vuyo Raymond Matinyana (33), who died in Amsterdam on November 14, was in the cargo hold of the plane.
According to friend and choreographer Gregory Maqoma, Matinyana's body was completely destroyed.
Matinyana's family in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape was horrified after learning that his remains could not be traced.
"His family were on their way to fetch his body at the (Port Elizabeth) airport when the undertaker was informed about an incident and had to turn back," said Maqoma.
Matinyana had lived in Amsterdam since 1992.
He worked as a musicien and a drag artist and was also a cultural activist.
Earlier information said that of the crew of 13, 11 were British and two were Americans.
The plane, flying out of Luxembourg, crashed on approach to Port Harcourt airportaround 1.45 am and split apart, Nigerian civil aviation authorities said. Six crew members werd admitted to a local private hospital with serious injuries.
The plane, which had been chartered by Swiss-based freight company Panalpina World Trans Ltd, was en route from Luxembourg to South Africa when it attempted to land in Nigeria to drop off supplies for local oil operations, a radio broadcast said.
The plane broke in two upon impact, scattering computers, piping and other equipment over a wide area, witnesses said.
SA Airways spokesperson Rich Mkhondo said SAA had had cargo aboard the aircraft, but he could give no further details.