Malawi vice president among 9 killed in plane crash, President Lazarus Chakwera says

ByNiamh Kennedy, CNN CNNWire logo
Tuesday, June 11, 2024 5:00PM
Malawi vice president among 9 killed in plane crash, President Lazarus Chakwera says
Malawi's Vice President Saulos Chilima has been killed in a plane crash along with nine other passengers, the country's president announced Tuesday.

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 in a mountainous area in the north of the country after a search that lasted more than a day, Chakwera said Tuesday.

"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.

There were no survivors of the crash, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said in a live address on state television.

Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and forest rangers had been searching for the plane that also carried a former first lady after it went missing Monday morning while making the 45-minute flight from the southern African nation's capital, Lilongwe, to the city of Mzuzu, around 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north.

Air traffic controllers told the plane not to attempt a landing at Mzuzu's airport because of bad weather and poor visibility and asked it to turn back to Lilongwe, Chakwera said. Air traffic control then lost contact with the aircraft and it disappeared from radar, he said.

Seven passengers and three military crew members were on board. The president described the aircraft as a small, propeller driven plane operated by the Malawian armed forces. The tail number he provided shows it is a Dornier 228-type twin propeller plane that was delivered to the Malawian army in 1988, according to the ch-aviation website that tracks aircraft information.

Around 600 personnel were involved in the search in a vast forest plantation in the Viphya Mountains near Mzuzu, authorities said.

Chilima was serving his second term as vice president. He was also in the role from 2014-2019 under former President Peter Mutharika. He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third, behind the incumbent, Mutharika, and Chakwera. The vote was later annulled by Malawi's Constitutional Court because of irregularities.

Chilima then joined Chakwera's campaign as his running mate in an historic election rerun in 2020, when Chakwera was elected president. It was the first time in Africa that an election result that was overturned by a court resulted in a defeat for the sitting president.

Chilima had previously been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government procurement contracts for the Malawi armed forces and the police, but prosecutors dropped the charges last month. He had denied the allegations, but the case led to criticism that Chakwera's administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.

CNNW and The Associated Press contributed to this report.