The plane, operated by local company Busy Bee, went down after shortly take-off in the eastern city of Goma, North Kivu Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita’s office said in a statement.
Two survivors, including one member of the crew, were being cared for at a local hospital, according to the National Border Health Program.
The company said the 19-seater Dornier 228-200 had 16 passengers and two crew members on board. The aircraft was headed for the city of Beni, 350km (220 miles) north of Goma, when it went down.
The exact number of casualties on the plane and on the ground was not yet known.
Witnesses said the pilot was attempting to return the plane to the airport after they heard a loud sound that seemed to come from the engine, according to Al Jazeera’s Alain Uaykani, reporting Beni.
He said Busy Bee indicated the engine had just been changed on the plane.
“Something apparently has gone wrong with the new engine,” Uaykani said. “They could not save anyone from this plane because of the difficult situation with the location of the area.”