Sixteen plane crash victims positively identified: NamPol

18 Jan 2014 10:40am
WINDHOEK, 18 JAN (NAMPA) – A senior officer in the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) announced on Friday that the remains of 16 victims of the Mozambican plane crash have so far been positively identified.
The plane crashed in the Bwabwata National Park in the Kavango East Region on 29 November 2013, killing all 33 people on board.
NamPol's Deputy Inspector-General for Administration, Major-General James Tjivikua told local journalists in the capital on Friday that the relatives of nine of the 16 victims who have been positively identified have asked the Namibian authority for the remains of their loved ones to be repatriated to their respective countries of origin before the end of the identification process.
“The repatriation of nine of the victims is now underway,” Tjivikua said, adding that the repatriation of the remains will be conducted with the involvement of, amongst others, the staff of the Namibian National Forensic Science Institute (NFSI), the respective governments involved, local funeral undertakers, and crisis and disaster management company Kenyon International Emergency Services.
He said the Kenyon teams have already met with the families of the victims in China, Portugal and Angola, and have also provided these families with the latest updates on the identification process, as well as the repatriation of the victims’ remains.
Representatives of the Mozambican airline LAM have met with the families of the victims in Mozambique and the Angolan government has been the primary point of contact for the Angolan families.
Tjivikua further announced that the wreckage recovery assessment teams have arrived in Rundu and drove to the crash site on Thursday to start surveying the crash site.
“Once the survey of the crash site is completed, a plan to remove the wreckage will be established. This will likely occur next month. A Kenyon team will form part of the survey and the wreckage recovery teams. The wreckage recovery assessment teams are due to arrive back in Windhoek on Sunday,” the senior police officer noted.
Tjivikua stated that the DNA testing timeline of the victims’ remains has not changed, and this testing has already commenced.
“We expect that the NFSI should have received all the DNA reference profiles by the end of this week. In some cases, by prior agreement, the reference samples have been submitted for profiling by the NFSI. If any nation requires assistance in completing their profiles, the NFSI can provide that assistance,” Tjivikua said.
He said after Sunday, and once all the DNA samples are tested, they will have a much better idea of the expected profile yield and will be able to provide a more definite timeline.
Tjivikua also said as previously noted, Namibia has proposed a process for the return of the belongings and properties of the victims to their respective families.
“We (NamPol) are still in discussions with the relevant ministries in finalising this process. And as soon as this process is finalised, we will publish the agreed upon process,” Tjivikua noted.
Meanwhile, Namibia’s Director of Aircraft Accident Investigations, Ericsson Nengola last month told Nampa he had received information that the preliminary results of investigations concluded on the black box which was retrieved from the wreck of Mozambican airline flight TM470 indicate that the pilot brought down the plane intentionally.
The plane was a complete wreck and bodies were extremely hard to identify, but the black box flight recorders were recovered intact and sent to the United States National Transport Safety Board in Washington to be decoded and transcribed.
Joao Abreu, Chairman of the Mozambican Civil Aviation Institute was also earlier quoted by the Associated Press (AP) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), saying there was clear intention by the pilot to crash the plane.
“The pilot Herminio dos Santos Fernandes locked himself in the cockpit, and did not allow his co-pilot back inside until moments before the plane hit the ground,” Abreu was quoted as saying.
He said the pilot's motives have not been established, and investigations will continue in that direction.
The co-pilot had gone to the bathroom, and the pilot reportedly used that time to lock himself in.
“Radar data showed that, at an obligatory reporting position over northern Botswana, the plane suddenly started to slow downwards rapidly. The plane's movements were normal before that,” Abreu said.
The altitude selector was then manually altered three times, bringing the plane's altitude down from 38,000 feet to 592 feet, he added, reading the preliminary report to reporters.
Low and high intensity alarm signals were heard on recovered recordings from the plane, along with the sounds of repeated banging on the cockpit door, he said.
The investigation report does not say who was banging, but Abreu asserted that the co-pilot was not in the cockpit at the time of the crash and was therefore not responsible for the crash.