UPDATED: Air ambulance that crashed off Senegal carrying 7 people may have 'touched' another plane

Incident comes weeks after another medical aircraft crashed in South Africa, killing all five aboard.

A medical evacuation plane carrying seven people, including a French patient, crashed off the coast of Senegal, aviation sources said Sunday, sparking an air and sea search.

Senegal’s civil aviation authority said the craft and a much bigger commercial jet may have “touched” in mid-air, while a local media outlet said the smaller plane was believed to have run out of fuel.

The HS125 twin-engine plane, belonging to the company Senegalair, was flying from Burkina Faso to Dakar with a crew of three, three medical workers and a French patient. 

It disappeared from radars shortly after 7 pm (1900 GMT) on Saturday over the Atlantic, 111 kilometres (69 miles) west of the Senegalese capital, Senegal’s civil aviation authority Anacim said in a statement. 

The plane crossed the path of a Boeing 737-800 operated by Ceiba Intercontinental Airlines, an airline based in Equatorial Guinea, at 1812 GMT around 555 kilometres from Dakar, Anacim said in a later communique. 

“Initial information suggest the two aircraft may have touched,” it said. “A technical investigation will provide confirmation, or refutation, of this.” 

The Ceiba flight, which was heading to the Benin capital of Cotonou, was re-routed to Malabo, the airline’s main hub, it said. Senegal’s Futurs Medias news group reported that the medical aircraft was suspected of having run out of fuel.

Senegal’s state press service APS reported that search operations led by two air force planes and a navy ship had continued through Sunday afternoon.

Apart from the female French patient, the plane was carrying two Senegalese nurses and a Senegalese doctor as well as a Congolese man and two Algerian crew members. 

Contacted by AFP, France’s foreign ministry declined to reveal the identity of the French patient who was being airlifted, nor the reason for the person’s presence in Ouagadougou. Officials did say the French embassy in Dakar was in contact with the patient’s family.

Last month, five people were killed when a medical evacuation plane from Namibia crashed in the Tygerberg Nature Reserve, in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa.

They were flying from Namibia to Cape Town to get treatment for a patient onboard. The dead included his daughter and two pilots.

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