Is the MDF convincing why it took them more than 4 hours to respond to the missing plane?

The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) on Thursday released results of a preliminary assessment done after its plane crashed in Chikangawa Forest, explaining why it took more than four hours for responders to commence the search and rescue operation after noting “early enough” that the plane had gone “missing”.

Did they delay to launch rescue mission?

Amidst growing questions from the public of why it took them more than four hours to respond, MDF Commander General Valentino Phiri insisted it was impossible to trigger a search when the aircraft was not declared missing.

“So, it was in the hands of technical experts to give a report. Throughout this four-hour period, you would notice that information was being given to relevant authorities; in this regard, to my office,” he said.

Phiri added that when information came to light that the plane might have crash-landed somewhere, the search operation commenced.

He said, at the time, the weather was bad in the Northern Region.

“It was very foggy and visibility was almost zero. It was for this reason that the aircraft lost contact,” he said

The incident occurred on Monday after the plane, a Dornier 228, failed to land at Mzuzu Airport and was returning to Kamuzu International Airport before going missing minutes later in the killing Vice President Saulos Chilima and eight others.

Phiri said that the aircraft lost contact at 10:10am and civil aviation stakeholders started looking for its signal.

“Initially, they were looking for a signal to establish contact. When they noted that they could not get the signal, they started contacting other areas where the aircraft would have gone and where contact could also be established.

“These were towers from Karonga, Likoma; towers across the borders in Tanzania and Zambia,” Phiri said.

Phiri also made a comment about the pilots, who also perished in the accident, saying they were experienced and got their training in South Africa in the 1990s.

He also disclosed that a proper and thorough investigation has been launched and will be conducted by a special board of inquiry which has been set.

The board, he said, comprises MDF experts and officials from the aviation services who will delve deeper into circumstances that led to the crash and the death of people on board.

The report will be sent to President Lazarus Chakwera who, according to Phiri, will decide whether to make it public.

Also speaking at the press conference, Minister of Information Moses Kunkuyu said autopsies on the bodies have been conducted by different doctors that the families chose.

“They [families] chose the doctors and government was responsible for the payments,” Kunkuyu said.

He also disclosed that the committee that is overseeing Chilima’s funeral ceremony has changed the venue from the fallen Vice President’s house in Area 12 to Parliament Building.

Kunkuyu further disclosed that the body will lie in State at Bingu National Stadium and not Civo as earlier announced.

Thursday, bodies of Lukas Kapheni, Chisomo Chimaneni and Dan Kanyemba were laid to rest in their respective home villages, while that of Abdul Lapukeni was laid to rest on Wednesday.

Those of MDF officers, who were the ill-fated aircraft’s crew, Colonel Owen Sambalopa, Major Florence Selemani and Major Wales Aidin and former First Lady Patricia Shanil Dzimbiri will be laid to rest Friday.


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