UK & World News
Croc On A Plane: Reptile 'May Have Caused Crash'
An escaped crocodile may have caused a plane crash which killed a British pilot and 18 others, an inquest has heard.
Chris Wilson died when the jet he was co-piloting plunged to the ground during a routine flight across the Congo in August 2010.
No cause for the crash has ever been established but an inquest was told a crocodile may have sparked a stampede by roaming around the aisles moments before the aircraft came down.
It is thought the plane, which was travelling from Kinshasa to Bandundu, may have nosedived as passengers and crew members ran from the reptile.
Assistant Coroner David Dooley said it was "apparently quite normal" for animals to be carried on the plane, adding: "It was used like a taxi in this regard."
"There is apparently a video of the crocodile being taken out of the plane," he told the hearing at Gloucester Coroner's Court.
"(Investigators) think it may have frightened the cabin crew member and she ran forward, with the other passengers following.
"The weight shift caused by the panic may have affected the plane, causing it to nosedive or stall."
Mr Wilson moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010 after giving up his job as a cabin crew member to follow his dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
The 39-year-old worked for local company Filair but is said to have become increasingly concerned about the flying ability of co-pilot Danny Philemotte, who owned the firm.
In a statement read to the court, his brother, Martin, said: "Every time he flew with Mr Philemotte, there was always one incident or another.
"He said he didn't want to fly with him anymore.
"He said if it wasn't for the fact they could see where they were going, they wouldn't ever get anywhere because Mr Philemotte couldn't read the instruments.
"He said he didn't know how Mr Philemotte was still alive (because) his flying was so bad."
Timothy Atkinson, an air accident investigator, said he had reviewed evidence from the Congolese authorities but was unable to draw any definitive conclusions because they were not given the plane's black box data recorder.
"There is no evidence suggesting an engine failure or a nose dive, although I cannot be sure without looking at the plane," he told the court.
"The accident appears to have the hallmarks of a stall and spin, which may have been from a variety of causes.
"Essentially, it fell out of the sky."
Mr Dooley recorded an open conclusion, saying a lack of witnesses and data from the black box "have only resulted in vague guesses as to what happened".