A family enjoying a dream holiday have been killed alongside a female pilot in a horror plane crash just moments after take-off.
Thomas Rings, 59, his wife Dr Evelyn Rings, 57, and daughters Alicia, 19, and Paulina, 17, tragically died when the light aircraft plunged nose first into a river.
The brood were leaving the stunning waterside lodge they had stayed at for three days situated on the River Chobe in Namibia.
They climbed into a Cessna 210 high-wing plane with newly-qualified pilot Nicole Mienie, 21, for the two-hour trip back to the capital Windhoek.
The young flyer, from Klein Karoo in South Africa, is said to have gained her licence to fly the powerful aircraft last year.
But just a minute into the flight, locals heard a “loud bang” and watched in horror as the six-seater aircraft plummeted.
It is said to have nosedived into the nearby River Zambezi – home to crocodiles and hippos – close to the shore on Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses reported hearing harrowing screams for help coming from the wreckage as it sunk with the German family on board.
It is believed the Rings and the pilot were trapped inside the smashed aircraft and may have drowned.
Part of the plane’s tail was found ominously lying on the river bank by local villagers.
The 120mph Cessna is registered to and owned by Scenic Air based in Namibia.
Air Accident Investigator chief Magnus Abraham said: “We can confirm at about 1.45pm on Tuesday a light aircraft Cessna 210 crashed on take off from Impalila Island with five on board.
“There was a South African pilot and a German family of four onboard the flight run by a private operator and we have launched a full inquiry into the circumstances of the crash.”
The bodies have all been recovered from the water and have been taken to the nearby Katima Mulilo State Hospital Mortuary.
Initial investigations suggest the passengers and pilot suffered multiple injuries in the terrifying crash.
Post mortems will be conducted on each of the deceased to determine their cause of death and hopefully piece together the cause of the incident.
An eyewitness recalled how the aircraft suddenly “fell out of the sky” before brave villagers rushed into the water to try and save them.
They told local reporters: “There was part of the back of the plane on the bank which may have washed up but the rest of it was about 30 feet out into the river.
“Although there are hippos and crocodiles, men went out with axes and cut their way into the plane and were able to remove the bodies.
“Screams were heard from the plane, so some or perhaps all, were alive but could not get out in time before it sank in the river and filled up inside with water.”
The onlooker said the plane remained in the water while investigators determined how to drag it onto the bank.
Thomas, Evelyn and their daughters are thought to have been enjoying a two-week break in the African bush when tragedy struck.
They had chartered the light aircraft to fly them back to Windhoek ahead of their flight home to Germany.
Screams were heard from the plane, so some or perhaps all, were alive but could not get out in time before it sank in the river and filled up inside with water.
The family had been staying at the luxury Chobe Water Villas in Kasika, where swanky waterside suites cost £1300 a night.
It is thought the brood took a river taxi up to Impalila Island where there is a former South African National Defence airstrip built during the South African Border War.
The airstrip was renovated last year by the Namibian Navy and was home to the Namibian Marine Corps but private charter flights are allowed to land and take off for tourists.
The repaired runway is typically used to bring in wealthy tourists who transfer to expensive lodges by river taxis.
It was the site of another chilling Cessna high wing crash in 2017, when a gang of Swiss tourists were forced to make an emergency landing.
The plane’s wing hit overgrown bushes and trees on the runway but all passengers and pilots survived.
Police officially identified the pilot and the German family of four.
Namibian Police are guarding the wreckage by the village of Muwana until air investigators have concluded their work and divers have been brought in to help raise the wreckage.