US Africa Command’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa has deployed a search and recovery team to Uganda to help find human remains and the flight data recorder from the wreckage an Illyushin 76 aircraft that crashed into Lake Victoria earlier this month.
All 11 people aboard the Soviet-era Illyushin IL-76 “Candid” freighter died in Uganda after it crashed into Lake Victoria shortly after takeoff from Entebbe International Airport on 9 March, Africom reports.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Joachim, the US Defence and Army Attache in Uganda, the US contracted IL-76 was carrying tents and water purification units to Mogadishu in support of the African Union mission in Somalia.
“The Ugandan response was quick and they were able to rescue some fisherman and debris,” he said. “The wreckage is believed to be under 24 to 26 meters of water and 10 meters of silt.”
The Government of Uganda requested US assistance in recovering the victims, retrieving the black box and flight data information and support in providing advisory and technical services to the accident investigation.
Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world.
“This is a search, classify and map mission. They just give us a big area and we use our different sonar systems to get a detailed map of what’s down there,” said sonar technician Petty Officer Michael Beuregard. “A lot of times you can’t tell 100% what something is but you can tell that something is there and in a situation like this, chances are it’s part of what we are looking for.”
The team brought three types of sonar systems, including both unmanned under water vehicles and boat-towed systems.
“We can program unmanned vehicles, put them in the water and go. They have a very good picture quality because you’re not affected by surface conditions and they are very accurate on giving you marks,” he said. “Some of the benefits of the towed systems is we get real time data. With the unmanned vehicles we have to recover them and then download the data.”
The tail of the aircraft, believed to hold flight data information has not yet been found. As wreckage is hopefully identified with the Sonar systems, divers will go down in an effort to find and retrieve the aircraft flight data information.
South Africa has carried out similar operations, notably deploying Navy divers to Lake Victoria in 1996 to recover the remains of about 500 people who drowned when the ferry MV Bukoba sank near the Tanzanian port of Mwanza.