CNN logo

Infoseek/Big Yellow

Pathfinder/Warner Bros

Barnes and Noble

World banner

Search ship finds plane wreckage in South Atlantic


U.S., German military planes considered missing

September 15, 1997
Web posted at: 3:54 a.m. EST (0854 GMT)

WINDHOEK, Namibia (CNN) -- A Namibian ship helping to search for missing U.S. and German military planes in the south Atlantic reported on Monday it had found some wreckage, port officials said.

"We were informed...they have found wreckage debris and half an aircraft seat with some German papers. Now they will be intensifying the search," Mogamat Saban, duty port controller at Walvis Bay port, told Reuters.

There was no word on survivors.

Two military aircraft, one from Germany and one from the United States, were missing in the same area of the South Atlantic on Sunday, and military officials believe they may have collided with each other. A total of 33 people were on board.

A French aircraft helping in an international search effort for the planes reported hearing an indistinct voice in a mayday distress call, a South African sea rescue service told the Reuters news agency early Monday.

On Sunday, the South African Air Force told The Associated Press that a signal had been received from a life jacket emergency beacon, indicating there might be survivors.

South African Airline Pilots Association spokesman talks about the difficulties of using African airspace
icon 320KB/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

The German plane, with 24 passengers aboard, was en route from Germany to Cape Town, South Africa, when it failed to show up for a scheduled refueling stop in Windhoek, Namibia, on Saturday.

The last radio contact with the plane was about 1400 GMT (10 a.m. EDT) Saturday, and German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said the craft is believed to have crashed in the sea about 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) off the coast of Angola.

The U.S. plane, a C-141 cargo plane with nine people on board, was en route from Windhoek to Ascension Island, a British territory in the South Atlantic -- a route which would have taken it through roughly the same area where the German plane was believed to have crashed.


The C-141, attached to the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, did not arrive as scheduled Saturday evening.

"They both went missing at about the same time and about the same area," said Kenneth Bacon, a spokesman at the Pentagon in Washington.

South Africa's Aeronautical Search and Rescue unit said on Sunday that a "mayday call signal" had been picked up by a French C160 aircraft flying off the African coast.

Early Monday, a spokesman at South Africa's Maritime Rescue Coordination Center described the mayday call as a voice.

"It was not very clear but, yes, it was a voice that came across," the spokesman said.

Asked what he meant by a mayday distress call, the spokesman said, "It's sometimes a beacon signal that goes off but it can also be a voice."

On Sunday, Maj. Nico Robbertse said the South African Air Force headquarters received a signal from an emergency beacon at 1100 GMT (8 a.m. EDT) Sunday. He said the signal, which has no identity beyond being something detectable on an emergency frequency, came from a transmitter in a life jacket.

"This is a small transmitter that is carried in life jackets, which means there could be survivors," Robbertse told The AP. There was no way to know if the signal came from a German or American life jacket.

Earlier, a South African Air Force spokeswoman said a flash picked up by satellite and reported by officials Saturday night at Johannesburg's airport indicated there may have been a mid-air collision.

"We are mobilizing search-and-rescue operations, and we are examining all information regarding both planes to see if there is any correlation," Bacon said. He said families of the nine U.S. crew members had been notified that they are missing.

German, American, British, South African and French rescue units are being deployed to the region.

"We will do everything to find out what happened," Ruehe said. He said no emergency landings in the region had been reported.

On board the German plane were 12 German marines, two of their spouses and 10 crew members. They were traveling to South Africa to participate in a regatta commemorating the 75th anniversary of the South African Navy.

The plane on which they were riding was a Soviet-built Tupolev TU-154 aircraft, inherited from the former East German army after the two Germanys were unified in 1990.

Reuters contributed to this report.


Related story

Related site:

Note: Page will open in a new browser window

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Infoseek search  

Message Boards Sound off on our message boards

You said it...
To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.