First wreckage of U.S. plane identified off Namibia
September 16, 1997
Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EDT (1913 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some wreckage recovered in the Atlantic
Ocean by a Namibian coastal patrol boat has been positively
identified as coming from the U.S. Air Force C-141 cargo
plane that disappeared Saturday, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
A military spokesman said a piece of wing was identified by
its serial number, and two other pieces of wreckage also were
believed to have come from the plane.
The wreckage was recovered in the same area as debris found
Monday from a German Air Force jet that disappeared at the
same time Saturday. All 33 people aboard the two planes were
feared dead, although only one body -- that of a German crew
member -- was found.
The German Tupolev 154 was flying to South Africa from Niger
via Windhoek, Namibia, while the C-141 was flying west to
Ascension Island from Windhoek.
There was speculation that the two aircraft might have
collided, but a U.S. military official said it was still
"premature" to draw firm conclusions at this stage of the
But Col. Eddy Brown of the South African Air Force told a
news conference, "I think we can start saying it's a very
good possibility that there was a collision."
German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe on Tuesday denied
charges that the German plane was ill-equipped for its
flight. Instead, he said air traffic safety in Africa needed
to be improved.
An organization of pilots agreed.
"Approximately 75 percent of the air traffic infrastructure
in Africa is unable to provide the services required for the
safe and expeditious operation of flights through the area,"
according to the Airline Pilots' Association of South Africa.
Reuters contributed to this report.