1993 Zambia national football team plane crash

On the evening of 27 April 1993, a DHC-5 Buffalo transport aircraft of the Zambian Air Force crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from Libreville, Gabon. The flight was carrying most of the Zambia national football team to a 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Senegal in Dakar. All 25 passengers and five crew members were killed. The official investigation concluded that the pilot had shut down the wrong engine following an engine fire. It also found that pilot fatigue and a faulty instrument had contributed to the accident.[1]

Zambian Air Force AF-319
A DHC-5D Buffalo similar to the accident aircraft
Date27 April 1993
SummaryCrashed after in-flight engine fire
SiteAtlantic Ocean
off Gabon
0°37′05″N 9°18′46″E / 0.618135°N 9.312716°E / 0.618135; 9.312716
Aircraft typede Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo
OperatorZambian Air Force
Flight originLusaka, Zambia
1st stopoverBrazzaville, Congo
2nd stopoverLibreville, Gabon
Last stopoverAbidjan, Ivory Coast
DestinationDakar, Senegal

Accident edit

The flight had been specially arranged by the Zambian Air Force for the football team. The journey was scheduled to make three refuelling stops; the first at Brazzaville, Congo, the second at Libreville, Gabon, and the third at Abidjan, Ivory Coast.[2]

Flight route

At the first stop in Brazzaville engine problems were noted. Despite this, the flight continued and a few minutes after taking off from the second stop in Libreville the left engine caught fire and failed. The pilot, who had also flown the team from a match in Mauritius the previous day, then mistakenly shut down the right engine, causing the plane to lose all power during the climb out of Libreville Airport and fall into the water 500 metres (1,600 ft; 550 yd) offshore. A Gabonese report released in 2003 attributed the pilot's actions to a faulty warning light and fatigue.[2][1][3]

Aircraft edit

The aircraft entered service in 1975. The plane had been out of service for five months from late 1992 until 21 April 1993. Test flights were carried out on 22 and 26 April. Prior to the departure for Senegal, checks revealed a number of defects in the engine: carbon particles in oil filters, disconnected cables and trace of heating. However, the flight went ahead as scheduled.[2]

Passengers edit

The Chipolopolo were a very promising Zambia national team. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, their 4–0 victory over Italy included a hat-trick from Kalusha Bwalya, who won the African Footballer of the Year later that year. They had their eyes on the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations trophy, having finished third in the 1990 edition, and a place at their first World Cup.[4]

All 30 passengers and crew, including 18 players, as well as the national team coach and support staff, died in the accident.

Three players of the "Chipolopolo" were playing with UEFA clubs, and each made separate travel plans from their clubs in Europe to Senegal. Captain Kalusha Bwalya— later national team coach and president of the FAZ — was playing for PSV Eindhoven. Charles Musonda, a player for Anderlecht, was previously injured, staying in Belgium for rehabilitation at the time.[5] Johnson Bwalya played for FC Bulle, and would have traveled from Switzerland.[6] Bennett Mulwanda Simfukwe, who had been seconded to the FAZ by his employers (ZCCM) for 5 years and was supposed to be on this flight, wasn't on it because his employers demanded that he should immediately be removed from the list of those who were officially scheduled to travel to Senegal.

Investigation edit

A campaign to have the Gabonese crash investigation publicly released continued into the 2000s.[7][8] In November 2003 a preliminary crash investigation report was released by the Gabonese government, which claimed that the left engine had caught on fire, and in an attempt to control the fire the pilot thought he had shut down that engine, when in reality he shut down the right engine due to a faulty light. Despite this relatives of the victims continue to lobby the Zambian government to produce a report on how the aircraft was allowed to leave Zambia, and why the players were transported on a military plane.[9][10][11][12][13]

In May 2002, $4 million was given to families of the deceased players in compensation.[14]

Aftermath edit

The members of the national team killed in the crash were buried in what became known as "Heroes' Acre", just outside the Independence Stadium in Lusaka.[9]

A new side was quickly assembled, and led by Kalusha Bwalya, faced up to the difficult task of having to complete Zambia's World Cup qualifiers (narrowly missing qualification by finishing one point behind Morocco) and then prepare for the upcoming African Nations Cup which was only months away to be hosted in Tunisia.[3]

The resurrected team defied the odds, and displaying an attacking playing style, reached the 1994 African Cup of Nations final against Nigeria. They took the lead in the first half, but the Super Eagles quickly equalised and followed up with the winner in the second half. In spite of the loss, the Zambian side returned home as national heroes.[15]

In 2012, Zambia won the Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville, only a few hundred metres inland from the crash site; the victory was dedicated to the ones who lost their lives in the tragedy. Zambia beat Côte d'Ivoire 8–7 in a penalty shoot out after the game ended 0–0 after normal and added time.[16][17][18]

The accident was the subject of the 2015 Spanish/Zambian documentary film Eighteam, directed by Juan Rodriguez-Briso.

Victims edit

All thirty people on board died in the crash. 24 bodies were recovered, but only 13 could be identified.[19]

Footballers edit


No. Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1GK David Chabala (1960-02-02)2 February 1960 (aged 33) 115 0   Mufulira Wanderers
1GK Richard Mwanza (1959-05-05)5 May 1959 (aged 33) 8 0   Kabwe Warriors

2DF Whiteson Changwe (1964-10-19)19 October 1964 (aged 28) 31 1   Kabwe Warriors
2DF John Soko (1968-05-05)5 May 1968 (aged 24) 25 0   Nkana
2DF Samuel Chomba (1964-01-05)5 January 1964 (aged 29) 21 2   Dynamos
2DF Robert Watiyakeni (1969-10-18)18 October 1969 (aged 23) 4 0   Dynamos
2DF Winter Mumba unknown 2 0   Power Dynamos
2DF Kenan Simambe (1974-08-23)23 August 1974 (aged 18) 1 1   Power Dynamos

3MF Derby Makinka (1965-09-05)5 September 1965 (aged 27) 98 10   Al-Ettifaq
3MF Wisdom Mumba Chansa (1964-04-17)17 April 1964 (aged 29) 34 4   Dynamos
3MF Eston Mulenga (1961-08-07)7 August 1961 (aged 31) 34 1   Nkana
3MF Moses Chikwalakwala (1969-08-28)28 August 1969 (aged 23) 7 3   Nkana
3MF Numba Mwila (1972-03-18)18 March 1972 (aged 21) 4 1   Nkana
3MF Godfrey Kangwa unknown 1 0   Olympique de Casablanca

4FW Timothy Mwitwa (1968-05-21)21 May 1968 (aged 24) 16 2   Nkana
4FW Kelvin Mutale (1969-09-20)20 September 1969 (aged 23) 10 12   Al-Ettifaq
4FW Patrick Banda (1974-01-28)28 January 1974 (aged 19) 6 3   Profund Warriors
4FW Moses Masuwa (1971-07-30)30 July 1971 (aged 21) 1 0   Kabwe Warriors

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "'Faulty plane' killed Zambia team". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 November 2003. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "ASN Aircraft accident de Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo AF-319 Atlantic Ocean, off Gabon". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b Montville, Leigh (18 October 1993). "Triumph On Sacred Ground". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Archived from the original on 27 April 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2010. Alt URL
  4. ^ "Zambia's remarkable journey makes them winners regardless". fourfourtwo.com. 12 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Soccer heroes remembered". Times of Zambia. Ndola, Zambia: Times Printpak Limited. 28 April 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2010.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Turner, Graham (28 April 1993). "La selección de fútbol de Zambia muere en un accidente aéreo". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  7. ^ Gondwe, Kennedy (28 April 2002). "Air crash families threaten legal action". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  8. ^ "Zambian MPs demand air crash report". BBC. 28 March 2002. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  9. ^ a b "The day a nation cried". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. 24 April 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Gabon crash victims remembered". Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  11. ^ Duerden, John (23 January 2010). "Football United: Zambia Making New History After Tragic Past". Goal.com. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  12. ^ Kapembwa, Jeff (30 April 2010). "Zambian plane disaster report still not out 17 years later". Southern Times. Windhoek, Namibia: NAMZIM Newspapers (Pty) Limited. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  13. ^ Kunda, Robinson (27 April 2010). "Red tape delays Gabon report". Zambia Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 December 2010.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "$4m for Zambian air crash families". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. 13 May 2002. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  15. ^ Mungazi, Farayi (24 January 2010). "Zambia's Kalusha Bwalya relives 1994 Nations Cup final". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  16. ^ Aleksander Losnegård (28 July 2016). "How Zambia restored their fortunes a year after the fatal plane crash of 1993". These Football Times. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  17. ^ "Tragedy spurs fairytale story for Zambia". FIFA.com. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  18. ^ Djazmi, Mani (10 February 2012). "Zambian footballers remember a lost generation of players". BBC Sport. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Today marks 19th Anniversary of Gabon Air disaster". Lusaka Times. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  20. ^ Sang, Kiplagat (28 April 2022). "FAZ's Kamanga: Zambia can honour 1993 Gabon plane crash victims at Afcon 2023". goal.com. Retrieved 14 December 2023.

External links edit