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Saulos Chilima: The Vice President of Malawi was killed in a plane crash with 9 other passengers

Saulos Chilima: The Vice President of Malawi was killed in a plane crash with 9 other passengers

Malawi State Television

The wreckage of the plane was found on Tuesday.



CNN

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima was killed in a plane crash along with nine other passengers, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera announced on Tuesday.

The plane disappeared after failing to land at Mzuzu International Airport, about 380 kilometers north of the capital, Lilongwe. Chakwera said in an address to the nation that the plane’s wreckage had been located.

“The search and rescue operation I ordered to find the missing plane carrying our Vice President and nine others has been completed. The plane has been found. I am deeply saddened and sorry to inform you that it has turned out to be a terrible tragedy,” Chakwera said.

The Malawian leader revealed that the plane was found “completely destroyed” near a hill in the Chikangawa Forest in northern Malawi, adding that “words cannot describe how sad this is.”

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Chakwera praised his deputy, describing him as “a good man, a devoted father and husband, and a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction.”

“His passing is a huge loss to his wife Mary, his family, his friends and colleagues in government, and to all of us as a nation,” Chakwera said in his speech from Malawi’s capital. The President also expressed his sadness over the loss of the other passengers on board the plane.

The Malawian leader highlighted the tragic nature of the incident, telling reporters that he had previously traveled on the same plane.

“But despite the plane’s record and the crew’s experience, something went horribly wrong with that plane as it was returning to Lilongwe,” he added.

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On Monday evening, the president told reporters that air traffic control advised the vice president’s plane not to attempt a landing, and recommended returning to the capital due to poor visibility. Shortly after, the authorities lost contact with the plane, and a search operation began.

Gianluigi Gorcia/AFP/Getty Images

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima is seen campaigning in 2019.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Malawi Defense Forces said they had deployed drones and at least 200 soldiers to search for the plane in the Chikangawa Forest Reserve where the last indications of its whereabouts were received.

Force Commander Paul Valentino Ferri said rescue operations were delayed due to bad weather conditions.

Chakwera said the vice president and nine other victims would be buried “in a dignified manner.”

Live footage showed that their remains arrived in the capital on Tuesday evening and were received by Chakwera.

The country will observe 21 days of national mourning for Chilima and the other officials killed in the incident. The mourning period will begin on June 11 and continue until July 1, according to a statement issued by the President’s Office.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was “deeply saddened” when he heard the news of the plane crash. “We extend our condolences to their families and stand with the people of Malawi at this sad time,” he added.

Chilima, 51, returned to Malawi on June 6 after attending the Korea-Africa summit in Seoul last week. He initially served as Vice President to former President Peter Mutharika Between 2014 and 2019 before being sworn in as Vice President for the second time in 2020. Chilima, an economist, previously headed Airtel Malawi, and is the first Malawian to lead the telecommunications company.

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“I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have served as my Vice President and Advisor for the past four years,” President Chakwera said.

Chilima is survived by his wife, Mary, and two children.