South Sudanese authorities said technical failure was the most likely cause of Wednesday’s cargo-plane crash in the capital that killed at least 36 people.
“The government has completely ruled out any acts of terrorism,” presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said Thursday by phone from the capital, Juba. The “investigation is going on and the Ministry of Transport has sent experts to the scene.”
The Antonov aircraft, owned by Allied Service Ltd., a Juba-based logistics company, was carrying at least 15 people including five Russians, when it crashed into the Nile River shortly after take off, killing fishermen on the ground. Two people were rescued from the wreckage, one of whom died later in the hospital.
Officials have asked for help from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, or Unmiss, to recover the aircraft’s black-box recorder and search for further clues, Brigadier-General Kur Kuol Ajieu, director of Juba International Airport, said earlier by phone.
UN-backed Radio Miraya, a local broadcaster, said on its Twitter account that Unmiss was sending medical officials and divers to the crash site. South Sudan’s Red Cross said Wednesday that more bodies may be recovered and machinery was needed to dig in the marshland where the aircraft hit.
Oil-producing South Sudan has been engulfed by conflict since December 2013, when a power struggle in the ruling party led to fighting within the presidential guard and the fracturing of the army. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, which has forced more than two million others from their homes, according to the UN.