Malawi Vice President, Nine others, Killed in Plane Crash

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima has been killed in a plane crash along with nine other passengers, the country’s President Lazarus Chakwera announced Tuesday.

The aircraft went missing after it failed to land at the Mzuzu International Airport, about 380 km (240 miles) to the north of the capital Lilongwe. The wreckage of the plane has been located, Chakwera said in an address to the nation.

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

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

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

Chakwera said in his address from the Malawian capital, the passing away of the VP is a terrible loss to his wife, Mary, his family, his friends, his colleagues in the cabinet and to all of us as a nation, The president also mourned the loss of the other passengers onboard.

The Malawian leader highlighted the tragic nature of the accident, telling journalists that he had himself previously traveled on the same aircraft.

He added that 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.

On Monday evening, the president had told journalists that air traffic control had advised the vice president’s plane against trying to land and recommended turning back to the capital due to poor visibility. Not long after, the authorities lost contact with the aircraft, and started a search operation.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Malawi Defence Force said it had deployed drones and at least 200 soldiers to search for the plane at the Chikangawa Forest reserve where signals of its whereabouts were last received.

The Force Commander Paul Valentino Phiri said rescue operations had been delayed by bad weather conditions.

The vice president and nine other victims will all be laid to rest in “a dignified manner,” Chakwera said, adding that an effort is already underway to transport their remains to the capital.

Chilima, 51, arrived back in Malawi on June 6 after attending the Korea-Africa Summit in Seoul last week. He first served as deputy to former President Peter Mutharika between 2014 and 2019 before being sworn in as vice president for a second time in 2020. An economist, Chilima previously headed Airtel Malawi, the first Malawian to lead the telecommunications company.

President Chakwera said that he considers it one of the greatest honors of his life to have had him as deputy and counsellor for the past four years.

Chilima is survived by his wife Mary and two children.

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Comfort Samuel

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