Shifeta wants access to Air Namibia probe

23 December 2019 | Transport

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta says Air Namibia should play open cards in its investigation of a recent incident in which six passengers and two staff members were injured, so that any negligence can be established or disproved.

Air Namibia is currently investigating the incident in which passengers and staff fell from a passenger assistance unit (PAU) while disembarking from a plane at Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek a week ago.

The passengers were on flight SW 708 from Cape Town.

A PAU is a lift used by people who cannot climb stairs.

“It is given to Air Namibia to investigate it is just reasonable and it will be appreciated if Air Namibia would share the outcomes of such investigation for us to establish whether there was an element of negligence from Air Namibia's side,” Shifeta told Namibian Sun.

He said measures should be put in place in future to prevent the reoccurrence of such an accident.

“Safety of our visitors should be priority number one.”

Air Namibia spokesperson Paul Nakawa said the investigation was ongoing and a preliminary statement would be shared soon.

Explaining what happened, Nakawa said that upon arrival of flights SW728 from Johannesburg and SW708 from Cape Town, the lift operator executed his duties as required.

“He offloaded two passengers requiring assistance from SW728 without any incident and proceeded to offload passengers from SW708.”

According to Nakawa the PAU was working properly at that stage.

“However, as the PAU was offloading passengers from the SW708 flight, the unit tipped backward. After the initial investigations, a breakage was found at a factor-welded joint.”

He said the passengers, as well as the Air Namibia personnel, fell to the ground and sustained injuries.

According to Nakawa the airport fire station was called and an ambulance was dispatched to the scene.

The passengers and Air Namibia personnel were immediately transported to Lady Pohamba Private Hospital in Windhoek, where three passengers remained in hospital.

Nakawa said Air Namibia had a procedure to ensure that all its ground support equipment was serviced and maintained regularly according to the manufacturer's standards. According to him, the lift had a full service in November.

“Air Namibia acknowledges the gravity of this incident and has constituted a team of aviation experts in their respective fields to carry out an in-depth investigation.”

The team is tasked to find the root cause of this incident and make recommendations to maintain the airline's unblemished safety record.

The team is comprised of Air Namibia's safety manager as the lead investigator, the airline's security manager as the co-opted investigator, its general manager of ground operations and a quality assurance officer.

Use of the PAU has been suspended indefinitely until it is declared safe to operate.

[email protected]

ELLANIE SMIT

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