1993 Zambia national football team plane crash

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Zambian Air Force AF-319
De Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo AN2223057.jpg
A DHC-5D Buffalo similar to the accident aircraft
Date27 April 1993
SummaryIn-flight fire, pilot error
SiteAtlantic Ocean
off Gabon
0°37′05″N 9°18′46″E / 0.618135°N 9.312716°E / 0.618135; 9.312716Coordinates: 0°37′05″N 9°18′46″E / 0.618135°N 9.312716°E / 0.618135; 9.312716
Aircraft typede Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo
OperatorZambian Air Force
Flight originLusaka, Zambia
1st stopoverBrazzaville, Congo
2nd stopoverLibreville, Gabon
Last stopoverAbidjan, Ivory Coast
DestinationDakar, Senegal

On the evening of 27 April 1993, a DHC-5 Buffalo transport aircraft of the Zambian Air Force crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off 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. The official investigation concluded that the pilot had shut down the wrong engine following an engine fire. It also found that pilot fatigue and a faulty instrument had contributed to the 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.[1]

Flight route

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 (550 yd) 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.[1][2][3]


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 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.[1]


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.[4]

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 president of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ)—was not aboard the 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.[5] Bennett Mulwanda Simfukwe, who had been seconded to the FAZ by his employers (ZCCM) for 5 years and was supposed to be on this flight, wasn't on the flight because his employers demanded that he should immediately be removed from the list of those who were officially scheduled to travel to Senegal.


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.[2][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]


Memorial at Heroes' Acre in Lusaka

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.[6]

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.[3]

The resurrected team defied the odds, and displaying an attacking playing style, reached 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.[13]

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.

The accident was the subject of the 2014 Spanish/Zambian documentary film Eighteam, directed by Juan Rodriguez-Briso.


All thirty people onboard died in the crash.[14]


  • Colonel Fenton Mhone (pilot)
  • Lt Colonel Victor Mubanga (pilot)
  • Lt Colonel James Sachika (pilot)
  • Major Edward Nambote (Flight Engineer)


Coaching staff[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "ASN Aircraft accident de Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo AF-319 Atlantic Ocean, off Gabon". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b "'Faulty plane' killed Zambia team". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 November 2003. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b Montville, Leigh (18 October 1993). "Triumph On Sacred Ground". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Archived from the original on 27 April 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  4. ^ Zambia's remarkable journey makes them winners regardless
  5. ^ "Soccer heroes remembered". Times of Zambia. Ndola, Zambia: Times Printpak Limited. 28 April 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2010.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b "The day a nation cried". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. 24 April 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  7. ^ "Gabon crash victims remembered". Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  8. ^ Gondwe, Kennedy (28 April 2002). "Air crash families threaten legal action". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  9. ^ Duerden, John (23 January 2010). "Football United: Zambia Making New History After Tragic Past". Goal.com. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  10. ^ "$4m for Zambian air crash families". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. 13 May 2002. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  11. ^ Kapembwa, Jeff (30 April 2010). "Zambian plane disaster report still not out 17 years later". Southern Times. Windhoek, Namibia: NAMZIM Newspapers (Pty) Limited. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  12. ^ Kunda, Robinson (27 April 2010). "Red tape delays Gabon report". Zambia Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 December 2010.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Mungazi, Farayi (24 January 2010). "Zambia's Kalusha Bwalya relives 1994 Nations Cup final". BBC Sport Online. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  14. ^ "Today marks 19th Anniversary of Gabon Air disaster". Lusaka Times. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2013.

External links[edit]