Sankt Augustin · A small aircraft crashed in Sankt Augustin on Tuesday afternoon. Two people died. The pilot reported engine problems before the crash.
The two-seat machine of the Tecnam type had taken off in Hangelar and was on a training flight when it crashed onto a field just south of the residential estate „Am Pleiser Wald“ around 3pm. It burnt out entirely.
Several eyewitnesses saw the crash happening. When there are westerly winds aircraft on their way to the Hangelar airfield usually turn over this field in a last left bend from the transverse into the final approach.
„This plane was unusually low, way lower than normal. It did not fall from the sky but it did look as if the pilot wanted to land on the field“, says resident Gerlind Palm, who became an eyewitness to the crash just seconds later: „The plane came over the field too low, then it struck the ground with a bang and it started burning straight away.“
Residents who came to help could not get the people on board out due to the flames. Within seconds the machine was entirely ablaze. Any help for the two men, who are thought to be a flight instructor and his student pilot, came too late.
The immediately alerted fire brigade followed the black smoke column to the crash site. Within minutes 48 fire officers under commander-in-chied Herbert Maur arrived at the scene of the accident and extinguished the burning plane wreck. Several ambulances, emergency doctor vehicles, the rescue helicopter Chritoph 3 from Cologne as well as an SAR army helicopter were called to the location within the shortest time. The police diverted the traffic, closed off the scene, also to avoid rubberneckers getting to the site.
Residents gathered at the side of the field
Many residents gathered at the side of the field. A lot of them expressed their sympathy about the accident, but some also spoke of their worries. Pilots would sometimes not perform the required traffic pattern of a circuit and would fly over the residential area despite being prohibited from doing so. One resident said: „Such a plane could crash into our house anytime.“
In the meantime, police spokesperson Stefan Birk said, when asked about the cause of the crash, that there have been no conclusions yet: „We have informed our colleagues of the criminal investigation department as well as the aircraft accident investigation team (BFU) who will investigate the scene and determine the cause of the crash.“
According to the Hangelar airfield, the pilot noticed engine problems and informed the tower of those via radio. No details have been given about the identities of the pilot and his student.
The last time a fatal plane crash happened near the Hangelar airfield was on November 1, 2011, when a small aircraft crashed into the Meindorf Siegaue.
Statistically, fatal plane crashes are rare in civilian aviation, as the aircraft accident investigation authority reported in its annual report. In 2017, they counted 22 serious incidents with 24 people killed and 25 people seriously injured. The numbers have been decreasing for years.
(Original text: Thomas Heinemann / Translation: Mareike Graepel)