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