Desmond Boomer

Desmond Boomer

A 38 year old Belfast born engineer working in the Libyan oil fields

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

A 49 year old English born engineer

Matthew Aquilina

Matthew Aquilina

A 22 year old Maltese national returning to Malta

Tadeus Gorny

Tadues Gorny

A 48 year Polish national working in the Libyan oil fields

Phillip Farrugia

Philip Farrugia

A 43 year old Maltese national returning to Malta

Carmel Bartolo

CArmelo Bartolo

The pilot, a 47 year Maltese national

  • Malta Independant Article

    Piper Lance had severe technical problems the day before

    A man who flew aboard the ill-fated Piper Lance aircraft from, Malta to Djerba a day before the plane disappeared, yesterday described the flight as the worst experience of his life.

    Omar Klebb was giving evidence to the board of inquiry set up to investigate the tragedy in which six people are believed to have lost their lives. The Piper Lance left Djerba in Tunisia at around 5am on 3rd December, 1995, with five passengers and the pilot aboard, but never arrived at its destination of Malta Intemational Airport.

    Parts of the wreckage and some belongings of those on board have since been found washed up at sea.

    Although the board of inquiry was set up soon after the plane disappeared. The last time it met was in August of 1997. In yesterdays sitting, Klebb said he was one of three passengers on the light aircraft, which was piloted by Carmelo Bartolo, the day before the incident.

    The flight, Klebb said, had departed late and the weather was not good However, what was more worrying he said was the state of aircraft. At one point during the flight, the aircraft’s control panel went off and the alternator belt developed problems. Klebb said they had continued the flight in the dark, "I had never felt so scared in my whole life." he said. Captain Bartolo, he said, told him that the plane would not be able to make its retum flight to Malta if some repairs were not carried out.

    When they arrived at the airport in Djerba he and Mike Williams, who took the iii-fated return flight to Malta. Klebb said the two had talked about work, but he never discussed the terrible joumey from Malta to Djerba.

    The recording of the conversation between the Tunisian Air traffic Control tower and Captain Bartolo was played yesterday for the first time and showed that contact was lost with the aircraft half an hour after its departure. '

    The Board of inquiry is being led by Dr. Philip Sciberras.

    [This article is incomplete]

  • Court hears pilots last words on ATC tape

    Court hears Bartolo’s last words on air traffic control tape

    By Sharon Spitteri


    Piper Lance inquiry

    Three and a half years after the setting up of a commission of inquiry to look into the disappearance of a missing Piper Lance plane with six men on board, the prospect of a conclusion yesterday became a tangible likelihood rather than a remote possibility,

    Inquiry chairman Philip Sciberras told lawyers convening for a hearing after 18 months of silence that he was scheduling only another two sittings before calling for submissions with a view to a conclusion.

    The commission was set up on December 4, 1995, a day after the disappearance of the   registered 9H-ABU on its Way to Malta from Djerba,

    On the plane piloted by Captain Carmel Bartolo, 47, of Zebbug were Philip Farmgia, 43; Matthew Aquilina, 22; Briton Michael Williams; Irishman Desmond Boomer and Pole Gorny Tadeuz.

    The commission, with members Captain Franz Sturmeier and Engineer Louis Giordmaina met for the first time on January 3, 1996. Before yesterday, the inquiry had last convened in August 1997. The chairman yesterday exhibited a lot of correspondence received since the last sitting. One of the exhibits was a report by a British unit investigating air accidents after an analysis of the Tunisian air traffic control tape.

    The conclusions of the report were not made available to the press on the pretext that the families should be given a chance to see the report before its conclusions hit news stands.
    Meanwhile the inquiry yesterday heard the tape in open court. The tape allegedly records Captain Bartolo's last words to Tunisian air traffic control.

    But the Bartolo family through their solicitor said they had not recognised Captain Bartolo's voice and arrangements were yesterday being made to give the families the opportunity to hear the tape again. The Bartolo family also requested that the inquiry keep on trying to obtain the original tape and not just a copy.

    The inquiry then heard Joe Sultana, the chief inspector at the department of aviation, who exhibited the original tapes of Malta air traffic control for both the inbound and outbound flights. He had so far produced the transcripts but not the tapes themselves, the inquiry heard.

    Omar Klebb then took the witness stand, He explained that he had been on the Piper Lance plane on the outbound flight, that is, he had left Malta on the plane and arrived in Tunisia on December 2nd at about 11 pm. Klebb said the first surprise came when the pilot calmly got into the cockpit started the engine and took off.

    There were no preparations, no time between the instant the pilot took his seat until the plane took off.  "I was surprised at how quickly it happened", Klebb said.

    The weather was very bad. Klebb said in fact that the plane hit a thunderstorm and while describing himself as a seasoned traveller, said "it was the worst flight he had ever been on". The instrument panel went blank some 30 minutes into the flight. Someone gave the pilot a lighter to see with because all those little lights went off.

    "I’ve never been so scared in my life. I took all my papers and put them in my chest pocket so that if something happened to me, someone somewhere would be able to identify my body," said Klebb, “We really thought we were going down. In fact, one of the other passengers told me when we landed ‘I think God has given us another  life".

    Klebb said he saw the plane’s alternator belt completely torn on landing and he questioned the pilot about it. He said Bartolo told him he was going to repair it as best he could.

    "I was sitting right at the back of the plane and I couldn't see the cockpit very clearly although it was immediately evident to me when the instrument panel went black", Klebb said.

    He told how he met Mike Williams at the airport waiting to board the next flight. "I lost one off my technicians on that flight. He was there about 11pm when we arrived. I didn't tell him about bad our flight was because I did not want to scare him", said Klebb.

    The inquiry also heard Pierre Galea, who handled the flight and assisted the passengers. Galea said Captain Bartolo gave him a document for the passengers to sign and he returned it to him. Galea claimed he was not aware that the document was in fact a declaration that the flight out of Malta was free of charge.

    He later said he was told that both flights, that is Malta-Djerba and Djerba-Malta, would be free. Then he explained that he assumed the flights were both free because he saw two copies of the same document.

    On a question by the attorney general Galea said he was aware that insurance fraud was a serious offence then said that Captain Bartolo himself told him that the flight back from Tunisia was free of charge.

    Mr Fenech from NCA Maintenance' Services gave technical details on the plane's upkeep. He said the alternator belt had been changed at the last inspection but could not tell the inquiry the exact date because his papers had been confiscated.

    Relative told ‘plane did not go down in water’

    Desmond Boomers father Cormac was then called to the witness stand to explain allegations he made in a letter he wrote to Transport Minister Censu Galea last January.

    Boomer, an Irishman, claimed his government, "knows that the plane did not go down in the water". He also claimed that two people, a soldier and a civilian pilot, had both confirmed that they also believed the plane was not in the water.

    But when asked to reveal the identity of his sources, Boomer said he had been given to understand that the two people had spoken to him confidentially and felt that he was not in a position to divulge them to the inquiry.

    Boomer remained adamant when pressed by the inquiry chairman. Attorney General Dr Anthony Borg Barthet then addressed the inquiry and said Boomer should be made reveal the names because the information he held was not privileged. "If he cannot prove his statements he should not make them". Dr. Borg Barthet said, "this is where the truth should be found, not on talk shows and in the newspapers."

    Boomer then said he was quite prepared to reveal the identity of his sources to the commission privately and at Dr. Borg Barthet’s insistence, under oath. Boomer then told the commission that he already knew that he would not agree with the commission's findings. “But I would like to take this opportunity to thank you. I have made my views publicly known but this does not mean I do not appreciate the work you have done," Boomer said.

    Mr.s Bartolo was then called to the witness stand to corroborate part of Boomers testimony. Boomer had said he met Mrs. Bartolo one time and she had told him she had been warned not to go to Tunisia because she would be shot.

    But what Mrs Bartolo told the commission yesterday was that she had confided to Boomer that a friend of the family had told her she had better not go to Tunisia because if something happened to her, her children would have lost both parents. “I remember saying something along those lines to him. I was referring to a conversation I had had with a trusted family friend, not a person in authority but just someone whose opinion I respect."

    "I never mentioned being shot and I didn’t take my friend’s warning as an indication that he was aware of some threat to my life". Mrs Bartolo also denied she told Boomer she had decided against going to Tunisia because, "if they don’t get me, they will take it out on the prisoners” as Boomer wrote in the letter to the transport minister.

    Mrs Bartolo said she did not understand the reference to prisoners. Asked whether she thought her husband was still alive, she said, “Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t”. But whatever her private feelings, Mrs Bartolo said she did not think her husband was being held captive.

    Her daughter Roseanne then told the court how an Egyptian man going by the name of Youssef had threatened to make sure her father, "did not return from his next flight" if he failed to run his (the Egyptian's) flights.

    She explained that Youssef sometimes contracted her father to fly planes to Tunisia. She explained, on a query by the chairman, that she had not reported the threat to the inquiry because a few days after her fathers disappearance she had filed a report at the Zebbug police station.

    Bartolo explained that she took the call from Youssef herself and then called her father in America to report the warning.

    The inquiry continues.

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