An inquest in Gloucester has heard how a plane crash that killed a British pilot in the Congo may have been caused by passengers panicking over an escaped crocodile.

Chris Wilson, 39, died alongside 18 others when the jet he was co-piloting crashed on a flight from the capital, Kinshasa, to Bandundu airport on August 25, 2010.

At his inquest on Friday the only surviving passenger claimed the crocodile spooked a cabin crew member who ran towards the cockpit followed by the passengers, possibly causing the plane to crash because of the change in balance.

Local media reports at the time claimed the croc, thought to be up to 3m long, had escaped from a passenger's holdall.


The inquest heard the small plane was beginning its descent when it suddenly "fell out the sky like a leaf".

Assistant Coroner David Dooley said evidence had been put forward about a fuel shortage, the overloading of the plane, pilot error, an engine failure, maintenance issues and a mass surge of passengers to the front of the plane.

Timothy Atkinson, an air accident investigator, said he had reviewed evidence given to him by Congolese authorities but was unable to draw any definitive conclusions because he had not been given the black box.

The court heard sabotage of the plane may also have been a possibility as rival companies fiercely competed for business.

Dooley said there was not enough evidence to conclude any one of the factors had caused the crash, and said contradicting evidence had been presented for all.