The 1993 Zambia national football team air
disaster occurred in the late evening of 27 April 1993 when a Zambian Air Force de Havilland
Canada DHC-5D Buffalo crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 500 metres offshore from Libreville,
Gabon. The flight was carrying most of the Zambian national football team to a FIFA World
Cup Qualifier against Senegal in Dakar. All 25 passengers and five crew members were killed.
A Gabonese official investigation into the accident concluded that the pilot had shut
down the wrong engine after a fire. The investigation found that pilot fatigue and an instrument
error had contributed to the accident. Accident
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. 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 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 m offshore. A Gabonese report released in 2003 attributed
the pilot’s actions to a faulty warning light and fatigue on the part of the pilot.
Aircraft 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 April 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.
Passengers The Chipolopolo were a very promising Zambia
national team. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul they thrashed Italy 4-0. They had their
eyes on the 1993 Africa Cup of Nations trophy and a place at their first World Cup.
All 30 passengers and crew, including 18 players, as well as the national team coach and support
staff, died in the accident. The Chipolopolo’s captain, Kalusha Bwalya—later national team
coach and now president of the Football Association of Zambia—was not aboard the ill-fated flight
as he was in the Netherlands playing for PSV at that time and had made separate arrangements
to make his own way to Senegal to take part in the match. Charles Musonda, at the time
playing in Belgium for Anderlecht, was previously injured and thus was not on the flight. Bennett
Mulwanda Simfukwe, who had been seconded to the FAZ by his employers for 5 years and was
supposed to be on this flight, survived the crash because his employers demanded that
he should immediately be removed from the list of those who were officially scheduled
to travel to Senegal. Investigation
A campaign to have the Gabonese crash investigation publicly released continued into the 2000s.
In November 2003 a preliminary crash investigation report was released by the Gabonese government.
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.
Aftermath 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. A new side was quickly assembled, and led
by Bwalya, faced up to the difficult task of having to complete Zambia’s World Cup qualifiers
and then prepare for the upcoming African Nations Cup which was only months away.
The resurrected team defied the odds, and displaying an offensive playing style, reaching
the 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.
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. List of victims
Crew Colonel Fenton Mhone
Lt Colonel Victor Mubanga Lt Colonel James Sachika
Warrant Officer Edward Nambote Corporal Tomson Sakala
Footballers Efford Chabala
John Soko Whiteson Changwe
Robert Watiyakeni Eston Mulenga
Derby Makinka Moses Chikwalakwala
Wisdom Mumba Chansa Kelvin “Malaza” Mutale
Timothy Mwitwa Numba Mwila
Richard Mwanza Samuel Chomba
Moses Masuwa Kenan Simambe
Godfrey Kangwa Winter Mumba
Patrick “Bomber” Banda Coaching staff
Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu Alex Chola
Wilson Mtonga Wilson Sakala
Others Michael Mwape
Nelson Zimba Joseph Bwalya Salim
Source: “Today marks 19th Anniversary of Gabon Air disaster”. Lusaka Times. 27 April 2012.
Retrieved 25 April 2013. References External links BBC – Famous Air Crash Victims – Part 3: Sportsmen
Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network