NPR logo Crocodile Seen As Culprit In August Plane Crash In Congo


Crocodile Seen As Culprit In August Plane Crash In Congo

It's impossible to write a headline about a crocodile rampaging on a commercial flight without invoking some deep — or, let's admit it, shallow — memories. But it seems that a deadly plane crash this past August was not caused by a fuel problem, as first reported — and that a crocodile was actually to blame.

As first reported in Jeune Afrique and then popularized on Australia's, a crocodile that had been confined in a sports bag gained its freedom as the plane it was on, a Czech-built Let 410, was flying from the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, to Bandundu.

The passengers panicked, following the lead of the flight attendant, who ran toward the cockpit.  Evidently, that was enough to doom the flight — the plane crashed into a house near its destination airport.

The survivors of the crash included one passenger and the crocodile, which was then hacked apart by rescuers. There are conflicting reports of the number of passengers and crew who died that day — some sources cite 19 deaths, while others say the number is 20.

As sad and bizarre as the incident is, it does have a precedent — The Weekly Standard dug up a Vanity Fair article in which William Langeweische detailed the unusual cargo often placed in the cabins of planes in the Congo.

People aren't the only passengers, as he writes:

But also smoked fish from the rivers and lakes, smoked monkeys from the forests, and crocodiles which are bound in tape and very much alive. The crocodiles have a certain crocodilian odor. They are four or five feet long. When they are loaded into the cabin, some passengers grow wary. The crocodiles themselves do not looked pleased. Their tail meat is sold as a delicacy in the markets.

In fact, Langeweische writes, a croc got loose in a plane and caused a panic — only for people to realize that his jaws had remained bound.