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Published: Saturday, 5/5/2007

Kenya Airways passenger plane with more than 100 people on board crashes in Cameroon


YAOUNDE, Cameroon - A Kenya Airways passenger plane with more than 100 people on board crashed in southern Cameroon on Saturday, state radio reported.

The west African nation's radio report said that the Nairobi-bound jet went down near the town of Niete, north of the border with Equatorial Guinea. It gave no further details.

Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni, speaking in Nairobi, said he couldn't immediately confirm the radio report that the plane had crashed. "We have not been officially informed," he said.

Relatives waiting at Nairobi's airport began wailing when television news stations reported that the plane had crashed. Dozens of family members cried and collapsed in the airport terminal while awaiting official word from the airline.

At a crisis center Kenya Airways set-up at a downtown Nairobi hotel, a woman was screaming in the lobby before being led into an elevator, trailed by photographers.

Naikuni said a team of investigators had been dispatched to the crash site but "so far no report has been received yet from this mission."

Kenya Airways said earlier Saturday it had lost contact with the jet shortly after its midnight takeoff from Douala, Cameroon, north of Niete.

"The last message was received in Douala after takeoff and thereafter the tower was unable to contact the plane," Naikuni said.

Kenyan airline officials said the Boeing 737-800 was carrying 114 people, including 105 passengers, from 23 countries. Naikuni said the plane was six months old.

The plane departed Douala at 12:05 a.m. and was to arrive in Nairobi at 6:15 a.m. It originated in the Ivory Coast, but stopped in Cameroon to pick up more passengers, the airline said.

The last crash of an international Kenya Airways flight was on Jan. 30, 2000, when Flight 431 was taking off from Abidjian, Ivory Coast, on its way to Nairobi. Investigators blamed a faulty alarm and pilot error for that crash, which killed 169 people.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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