Gabon DisasterGabon Disaster
SOCCER’S DARKEST DAY: The loss of a generation of talent
The Gabon Air Disaster
A nation wept, the global football family moaned in shock as the shocking and horrifying pictures filtered from the shores of the Atlantic – 18 players, two Football Association officials, a journalist and the Zambia Air Force crew perished when their military Buffalo plane – the DHC-5 Buffalo, AF-319 – plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Gabon after a refueling stop in Libreville on their way to Senegal for a 1994 World Cup qualifier.
An official report into the 1993 plane crash blamed a mechanical fault in the left engine. The first report, released - 10 years after the national tragedy indicated that then the pilots switched off the still functioning right engine by mistake because of a "poor indicator light bulb" causing the plane to lose all power and crash. The report, released in parliament by then Vice President Nevers Mumba, said that the loss of power and lift indicated the failure of both engines but said the government may have wished to have this confirmed it by experts.
The report also said that the pilot was tired, having just flown back from Mauritius the previous day.The Zambian national football team had to play a World cup qualification match against the Senegal national team.
The DHC-5 Buffalo, AF-319, had not been flying from December 21, 1992 to April 21, 1993 so test flights were carried out on April 22 and April 26.
The Buffalo departed Lusaka, for Dakar with planned intermediate stops at Brazzaville, Libreville and Abidjan. After refueling at Libreville, the aircraft took-off at 22:44 hours, one hour and 45 minutes late.
Shortly afterwards the left engine failed. The plane headed out over sea and lost altitude until it struck the water 500m offshore. An investigation conducted by the Gabonese Ministry of Defence suggested that the pilot shut down the remaining right-hand engine causing the plane to lose all power. The report, released in November 2003, also said that the pilot was tired, having just flown back from Mauritius the previous day.
April 28 2008 marked a bitter 15th anniversary of the Gabon air disaster where the entire Chipolopolo squad perished.
Players that perished in that disaster were: Efford Chabala, Whiteson Changwe, Samuel Chomba, Richard Mwanza, Moses Chikwalakwala, John Soko, Kenani Simambe, Moses Masuwa, Patrick Banda, Estone Mulenga, Winter Mumba, Robert Watyakeni, Derby Makinka, Wisdom Chansa, Timothy Mwitwa, Godfrey Kangwa, Numba Mwila and Kelvin Mutale
The two coaches: Godfrey Chitalu and Alex Chola