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Malawi VP, nine others, killed in plane crash

By Jack MCBRAMS - AFP
Malawi Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima was killed in a plane crash.  By AMOS GUMULIRA (AFP/File)
TUE, 11 JUN 2024 LISTEN
Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima was killed in a plane crash. By AMOS GUMULIRA (AFP/File)

Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima was killed in a plane crash, the nation's president said on Tuesday, after searchers located the wreckage of the aircraft in a foggy forest.

The military plane carrying Chilima, 51, and nine others disappeared on Monday, after it failed to land in the northern city of Mzuzu due to bad weather and was told to return to the capital, Lilongwe.

"The search and rescue team have found the aircraft ... completely destroyed with no survivors, as all passengers on board were killed on impact," Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera said addressing the nation.

"Words cannot describe how heartbreaking this is," he said, describing the accident as a "terrible tragedy."

Photographs shared with AFP by a member of the military rescue team showed army personnel standing on a foggy slope near debris bearing the registration number of the Malawi Army Air Wing Dornier 228-202K aircraft.

Rescuers had been combing a fog-cloaked forest south of Mzuzu on Tuesday, after authorities located the last tower it transmitted to before the plane disappeared.

Earlier, army commander General Paul Valentino Phiri said other countries, including Malawi's neighbours, had been aiding the search effort, with support including helicopters and drones.

The group departed just after 9:00 am (0700 GMT) from Lilongwe on Monday to attend the funeral of a former cabinet minister some 370 kilometres (230 miles) away in Mzuzu.

Malawi's former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri was also on board.

Widely loved

Chakwera said he had previously flown on the same aircraft for similar trips. The crew had successfully operated it just hours before the accident, he added.

"And yet, despite the track record of the aircraft and the experience of the crew, something terrible went wrong with that aircraft on its flight back to Lilongwe, sending it crashing down," he said.

First elected vice president in 2014, the charismatic yet stern-talking Chilima was a widely loved figure in Malawi, particularly among young people.

But in 2022, during his second stint in the job, Chilima was stripped of his powers after being arrested and charged with graft over a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman.

Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges and he resumed his official duties.

"Chilima was a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction and a formidable vice president," Chakwera said.

"I consider it one of the greatest honours of my life to have had him as my deputy and counsellor for the past four years."

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024

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