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Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima dies in a plane crash



Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima Dies In Plane Crash

The military plane carrying 51-year-old Chilima and nine others disappeared on Monday (File)

Malawi’s vice president Saulos Chilima died in a plane crash, the country’s president said Tuesday, after searchers located the plane’s wreckage in a misty forest.

The military plane carrying 51-year-old Chilima and nine others disappeared on Monday after bad weather prevented it from landing in the northern city of Mzuzu and was told to return to the capital Lilongwe.

“The search and rescue team found the aircraft… completely destroyed, with no survivors, as all passengers on board were killed in the collision,” Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said in an address to the nation.

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

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

Rescuers were combing a fog-shrouded forest south of Mzuzu on Tuesday after authorities located the last tower the plane was dispatched to before it disappeared.

Earlier, Army Commander General Paul Valentino Phiri said other countries, including Malawi’s neighbors, had assisted in the search, with support including helicopters and drones.

The group left Lilongwe just after 9am (0700 GMT) on Monday to attend the funeral of a former minister some 370 kilometers 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 plane for similar trips. The crew had successfully operated it several hours before the accident, he added.

“And yet, despite the aircraft’s track record and the experience of the crew, something went terribly wrong with that aircraft during the flight back to Lilongwe, causing it to crash,” he said.

The charismatic yet stern-speaking Chilima was first elected vice president in 2014 and was a much-loved figure in Malawi, especially among young people.

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

Last month, a court in Malawi 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 honors of my life to have had him as my deputy and counsel for the past four years.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)