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Two dead, nine injured in two air crashes in Tanzania

Des Werner(58) and Werner Froneman (36) died when the plane they were travelling in crashed in Tanzania last week. Pic: U-Dream Global Facebook

Two people have died and nine others have been injured in two separate plane crashes in Tanzania over the past week. The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authorities (TCAA) say they are investigating both crashes.

On August 3, 2019, two adult South Africans who were part of the support crew for an inspiration teen-powered Cape to Cairo aviation project died when the plane they were travelling in crashed. The pilot, Des Werner (58) and his passenger Werner Froneman (36) are believed to have experienced engine failure in Tanzania. Both were part of the U-Dream aviation project that saw two teenagers successfully journey across the African continent in a self-built aircraft.

Sikonge District Commissioner Peres Magiri told local media that the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority received a distress signal from the aircraft shortly after its take-off from Tabora airport in Western Tanzania, before disappearing from the radar.

The burnt-out wreckage of the craft was discovered shortly afterwards, with only the engine and small parts of the plane remaining to be recovered.

The two men, who were both directors for U-Dream Global, were en route to Malawi to meet with the teen pilots who had just completed the trip from Cape Town to Cairo in their self-assembled aircraft. One of the teenagers was Werner's daughter.

Seventeen-year old Meagan Werner founded the U-Dream initiative to change the limiting beliefs held by young people, showing them that they could dream and achieve the unbelievable, with the aim of uplifting, equipping and empowering the youth. She piloted the mission but was also one of 20 teenagers who had built the plane for the expedition, which started in June.

The teen pilot and her crew have arrived back in South Africa, but are at this point too heartbroken to speak publicly about the trip or the tragedy.

Spokesperson for U-Dream, Simon Manda, has requested understanding and patience as the team and their families deal with the loss.

Before the trip, Belinda Werner shared her support for her daughter and husband on the journey that lay ahead. "I think any mom is concerned — or any mom and wife is concerned…" She said being in aviation herself exposed her to all sides of the industry, and she was not oblivious to the dangers. "But you know, I’m happy that they’ve chosen this industry to get the message out there that anything is possible, because that is what we believe as a family, as well,” she said to Voice of America’s Marize De Klerk.

Athol Franz, owner and editor of African Pilot magazine, says it is still difficult to determine the cause of the crash, although it is believed that engine failure played a role. Franz described the elder Werner as a highly qualified airline transport pilot and said he had been looking forward to their homecoming to celebrate their achievement.

After assembling the plane in just 10 days, the crew flew more than 12 000km, with stops in Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zanzibar and Uganda, before eventually reaching their end destination of Cairo. They were en route back to South Africa at the time of the crash.

On Tuesday, August 6, just three days after the U-Dream tragedy, a Tropical Air Cessna 208B Grand Caravan crashed when attempting to take off in eastern Tanzania on Mafia island. The director general for the Tanzanian aviation authorities, Hamza Johari, told the media that the plane was on its way to Dar es Salam from the island in the Indian Ocean, but lost its way and crashed, catching fire upon impact. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

“We have already deployed a team of experts who will examine what happened. When that is done, we will be able to issue a complete statement,” Johari told members of the media. “We are not aware of the cause but we are working with relevant agencies to establish the cause.”

Authorities say all nine passengers aboard the flight managed escaped before the wreck caught fire, with four passengers needing further in-hospital medical treatment.

Local aviation authorities say that both crashes are under investigation and findings will be made available in due course.

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