[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] One of the only two survivors of the cargo plane crash that killed 37 people last Wednesday in Juba lies in a hospital bed in Juba Chinese Peace Fracture and Orthopedic Hospital in Juba.
Wuor Arop, who cradled the other survivor, an 11-months old baby who suffered multiple fractures (bones broken in six places) shared with TCT their story of survival on Monday.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Arop narrated that the plane, unauthorized to ferry passengers, carried up to 40 people on board at the time of the crash.
The only adult survivor of the deadly South Sudan plane crash said he cradled a stranger's baby in his arms as doomed passengers shouted the aircraft was going down, and he and the child were the only people who lived through the carnage, he painfully explained.
The Soviet-built Antonov AN-12 was taking off from Juba, on Wednesday morning heading to Paloich oil fields in Upper Nile South Sudan. Carried on board in addition to cargo load were a crew of six and thirty seven others of which only two survived the fatal accident.
According to Arop, shortly after takeoff, passengers started screaming and shouting that the plane was crashing.
"The baby I grabbed, was near me and another friend of mine was also near me, he stepped on me so I grabbed him too, unfortunately he did not remain with me," said Arop.
Arop said he remembers his friend calling out his name just before impact, his last memory after waking up in a hospital. Wour Arop suffered limb fractures on the fateful flight.
A medical specialist described the condition of the two survivors as ‘clinically stable.’ One year-old baby girl and a young man Arop are currently receiving treatment at the Chinese Peace Fracture and Orthopedic hospital in Juba.
Arop Told TCT he paid 500 South Sudanese pounds, less than 30 dollars at Juba street exchange rates, to an unofficial plane "dealmaker" for a seat on the cargo flight. Adding that no ticket was issued and the fee was split between the pilot and the broker, he said.
Arop explained that he was one of nine people besides the crew who had seats on the plane, while other passengers were sitting on the floor of the cargo, were cheap sandals, crackers, cans of beer and medicine were loaded.
Mr. Nyoth Thon Bol, a relative to Arop, told TCT how he met his nephew at the Chinese Peace Hospital.
“We met with him (Arop) at the Chinese Peace Fracture and Orthopedic hospital in Juba after his survival. He was with me at home and left for the airport in the morning; in few hours he called to inform me that he had boarded a cargo plane. I wished him a safe journey. Shortly after the plane’s takeoff, I received a phone call telling me that the plane had crashed. I quickly called my brother who works at Juba airport to find out whether my nephew had actually left with the cargo plane. He confirmed that it was true. We immediately concluded that he was dead and rushed to the airport to wait for the news. Little did I know that he was taken to the hospital. Luckily enough, my nephew remembered my number and shared it with the doctor. The doctor called to let me know that he was in the hospital, there we all rushed to the hospital, and thank God he is alive.”
Amou Aluony Ajuot is a relative to the one-year-old girl who was miraculously pulled out of the wreckage. She says she lost two other family members in the crash. Ajuot also said she has been approached by several people claiming the child. “People have been claiming this child is theirs. One group came and said the child was three years old, but our child is only 1 year and 1 month. I argued with them and told them that I know the baby well because I spent the night with her the day before”, explained Ajuot.
According to Ajuot, several other people have come to hospital claiming that the surviving child is theirs, but she insisted and testing them with questions.
“Other people came, also claiming the child was theirs. I asked them if their baby was a boy or girl, and they said he is a boy –I told them this baby is a girl. Another group also came saying the child is theirs. They said the child was brought to hospital wearing clothes. I told them no, the baby was brought to the hospital without any clothes.”
The National Ministry of Transport, Roads and Bridges has formed a committee to investigate Wednesday’s plane crash. According to the Director of Accident and Incident Investigation in the Transport Ministry, Jaling Deloro Nyenkeji, a committee comprising five to seven experts is formed and will look into the accident. “The committee has started its investigation” Said Deloro while addressing media.
Over 40 people are said to have died when the Russian-made cargo crashed shortly after taking-off. The public has called on the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority to introduce internationally accepted aviation standards. The Civil Aviation Authority is urged to strictly enforce aviation standards.
A Christian leader who doesn’t want to be named told TCT,
“We are a new nation and there are a lot of things that we have to do, but being a new nation, we have the brains, the eyes and the ears to look at the world and see what standard the world has reached in aviation. We should start from the already established standard and not below.”
Another member of youth, who also declined to be named, pushed that “The civil aviation authority should be careful not to allow old aircraft to operate in the country.”
Some commentators observed that most of the private owned aircrafts operating in South Sudan are below the expected aviation standards.
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