12 February 2013

Liberia: Crash Probe Begins

Investigation into the crash of a Guinean military plane in which the country's chief of staff and other ranking military officers coming to participate in Liberia's Armed Forces Day were burnt to death has begun with the discovery of a black box and another sensitive instrument from the wreckage of the plane.

Information Minister Lewis Brown making the disclosure in an exclusive interview with this paper yesterday said the black box which contains the last recording of the plane before the crash and a voice recording will assist in the investigation.

"These two instruments will give us all of the information we will need in establishing the fact," Minister Brown said in a mournful state.

He said the Liberia Civil Aviation has told the government that it has reached an agreement with "a Canadian authority" to assist in analyzing these two instruments.

He added that a Canadian agency has agreed to assist in the interpretation of the voice recording and the black box.

This probe on the part of the Liberian government is in addition to another probe that will be undertaken by UNMIL.

Meanwhile, all of the bodies were yesterday flown to Guinea with a full salute and respect from personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

They are expected to be buried in accordance with Islamic traditions.

Minister Brown disclosed that the Minister of Defense Brownie Samukai led the escort at about 11: am on a UN plane to Conakry.

The Guinean plane bringing a defence military delegation to this year's Armed Forces Day celebration when it crashed near Liberia's main airport Monday morning, killing all occupants, including the country's defence chief on board.

Initial accounts of the death toll put the number at 10, but our reporter who travelled to the crashed scene in Charlesville, about 25 miles southeast of Monrovia, quoted eye witnesses as saying that they saw 11 bodies taken out of the wreckage of the plane to Monrovia.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but witnesses told our reporter that a technical problem might have developed in one wing of the place as they heard screams of people on board calling for help. "Someone help, we are dying! We need help!" one eyewitness quoted the occupants as saying when the plane was falling down.

The Guinean military officials and staff were expected to join their counterpart delegations from Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Cote D'Ivoire sent by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to grace the annual Armed Forces Day celebrations in Monrovia.

Others were Gen Kalefa Diallo, Guinea's army chief of staff; Col. Mamadou Conte, an interpreter; Col. Malal Dialli, a military aide; Cdt Abdourahmane Camara, renseignement; and Cdt Mamadou Conde, aide camp.

The rest were El Hadji Mamadou Cellou Delein Diallo, Col. Sanoussy Camara, Lt. Col Moustapha Sangare, Lt. Col Soriba Diawara and Lt. Col Mohammed Coumbassa.

A day of mourning was observed in Monrovia yesterday in memory of those killed in the crash.

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