By Adeleye Kunle
A fisherman who was one of the first responders at the site of Sunday’s plane crash in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria, which killed 19, has described how he tried to save the pilots trapped in the cockpit and nearly lost his life trying to save them.
Majaliwa Jackson has been recognized as a hero, receiving 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($430; £370) and being offered a job in the fire and rescue service for his efforts.
Before the government announcement, Mr Jackson told the BBC from his hospital bed in the lakeside town of Bukoba that he panicked when he saw the passenger plane approach from the wrong direction and crash into the lake.
He rushed to the scene with three other fishermen and assisted in opening the rear door by smashing it with a rowing oar, allowing passengers seated in the plane’s rear to be rescued.
Mr Jackson claims he then moved to the front of the boat and dove into the water. Then he and one of the pilots communicated by making signs through the cockpit window. “He told me to smash the window screen. When I got out of the water, I asked airport security, who had arrived, if they had any tools we could use to smash the screen.
“They gave me an axe, but I was stopped from smashing the screen by a man with a public announcement speaker.” He stated that they were already in contact with the pilots and that there was no water leak in the cockpit,” Mr Jackson stated.
After being stopped, he “dived back and waved goodbye to the pilot.”
However, the pilot later stated that he still desired to be rescued.
“He showed me the cockpit emergency door. I swam back up and tied a rope to the door, and we attempted to pull it with other boats, but the rope snapped and hit me in the face, knocking me unconscious. “The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital,” Mr Jackson explained. Both pilots were among the 19 people confirmed dead after the plane, operated by Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest private airline, crashed near the lake’s shore.
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