A twin-engine plane carrying 12 American tourists and two South African crew members en route to a game reserve crashed into Mount Kenya, apparently killing everyone on board, Kenyan officials said Sunday.
The South African-registered Fairchild Metro turboprop slammed into Point Lenana, the mountain's third-highest peak, at 6 p.m. Saturday as a cloudy sky was beginning to clear just before sunset, said Bongo Woodley, senior warden of the Kenya Wildlife Service in the area.
"We heard it immediately, and I have flown over the site and seen the crash, and there do not appear to be any survivors," Woodley said by telephone from the Mount Kenya National Park headquarters in Naro Moru, 75 miles north of Nairobi, the capital.
The passengers were members of three American families, said President Mwai Kibaki's spokesman, Isaiya Kabira.
Woodley said KWS rangers were preparing to trek to the crash site, located at 16,000 feet but that cloudy weather Sunday was complicating things. He said local police were also preparing to make the ascent.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement that "we understand that Kenyan authorities have reached the crash site and have begun the process of examining the site, and our embassy personnel are making plans to get to the site as soon as they are able to do so."
Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano and Africa's second-highest mountain, consists of three peaks: Batian at 17,157 feet; Nelion at 17,120 feet; and Point Lenana at 16,450 feet.
Woodley said he understood that according to a flight plan filed at Nairobi's Wilson Airport there were 14 people on the plane and that most were American tourists.
An official at Wilson Airport, who asked not to be further identified, said the 12 passengers on the aircraft that took off at 3:58 p.m. Saturday en route to the Masai Mara game reserve after a tour around Mount Kenya were all Americans and the two crew members were South Africans.
The State Department said the flight originated in Mozambique.
Kabira, the Kenyan president's spokesman, said the aircraft had been reported missing late Saturday.