Grim Work Continues at Plane Crash Site
Tuesday, May 8, 2007; 7:52 PM
MBANGA-PONGO, Cameroon -- Recovery teams in a dense mangrove swamp where a Kenya Airways jet crashed and killed all 114 people aboard pressed ahead with their grim, muddy job after failing in a bid Tuesday to pump water away from the wreckage.
Friends and relatives of the victims, who included at least one American, were allowed briefly at the site before authorities barred access in order to preserve evidence.
Lydienne Eyoum, whose two colleagues from a Cameroon-based law firm died in Saturday's crash of Flight 507, wept as she walked through the brush, leaning on a rescue worker.
"I couldn't believe it," she said of the swampy crash site, where the stench of decomposing bodies and jet fuel filled the air. "But I wanted to see it to understand, because there are so many questions and no answers."
Paulette Ekandje, who lost her husband, Mousinga, expressed frustration.
"What's most disturbing is that five days after the accident, we still have no information on what caused the crash," she said. "We can't have a funeral for our loved one because we don't yet have his body."
A physician from Massachusetts, Dr. Albert Henn, who headed an AIDS treatment and testing center in Nairobi, was among the 105 passengers and nine crew members who perished.
Elizabeth Dunning, a Cape Cod friend of Henn's whose daughter was an intern at his organization, Liverpool VCT, said he was generous, passionate about his work and encouraged American friends to share his love of Africa.
"Unlike a lot of us who have dreams of doing things that we never get around to doing, I think he actually was able to implement his dream. He did exactly what he wanted, he did a lot of good," Dunning said.
Also killed was Nairobi-based Associated Press correspondent Anthony Mitchell, 39, who had been on assignment in the region.
Rain complicated the recovery of bodies from the Boeing 737-800, submerged in murky waters just three miles from the end of the runway where it took off on a flight from the Cameroonian city of Douala to Nairobi.
Kenya Airways chief pilot James Ouma told a news conference in Nairobi that Kenyan investigators believe the jet crashed about 30 seconds after takeoff. Officials in Cameroon had said earlier that they lost contact with the jet 11-13 minutes into the flight.