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NOTICES & DOCUMENTS  

9 Years Ago on August 15th 2004 DR. SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN WROTE TO H.E. PRESIDENT DR. AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
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Aug 15, 2013, 17:06
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9 Years Ago on August 15th 2004

DR. SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN WROTE TO H.E. PRESIDENT DR. AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH

 

H.E. Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

President of The Republic of Sierra Leone

Presidents Lodge,

Hill Station, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

  Sunday August 15th 2004.

Your Excellency,

 

OPEN LETTER TO MY PRESIDENT

 

I am not sure if you know that on Wednesday 11th August 2004 at around 2:30pm in the afternoon, over 70 of your Sierra Leonean citizens almost lost their lives in a terrible plane crash at the Lungi International Airport involving a Boeing 737 Plane operated by Air Guinea Express.


Your Excellency, Air Guinee Express is owned by a Guinean named Mamadou Sylla who purchased the airline from The Guinean Government last year 2003. Shortly after Sylla purchased the plane in the name of his International Company named GROUPE FUTURELEC, the plane suffered a crash in November 2003 right at the Lungi Airport. But, this crash of Wednesday August 11th (8-11) was far more serious.


For the sake of posterity, I am putting down on paper the events since that day. Very early, on Wednesday 11th August (8-11), we all turned up at the Lungi International Airport to board the Air Guinee Express Flight 110 from Freetown to The Gambia. At around 8:30am, we were told that the plane came from Conakry, Guinea but could not land because of weather visibility problems and had therefore headed back to Conakry.


We waited until 1:25pm when an announcement was made that the plane had come back from Guinea and would be landing finally. The plane landed and we were placed on board. Almost immediately after the plane took off and was in mid air, we noticed that the left wing was on fire and the flames were climbing up towards the back windows. We then heard a big BOOM! sound and the plane started to twist up and down in the air until it crashed into some green plantations, continued at full speed before finally landing in a swamp with the plane still on fire and the now completely darkened passenger cabin reeking of the smell of kerosene and jet fuel.


Your Excellency, we were later informed that the BOOM sound was the sound caused by one of the engines falling off in mid-air. I saw the site where the engine landed. The distance from the point of impact where the engine hit the earth from the air and the final resting place of the plane was approximately 600 metres!

 

Your Excellency, to continue my narration, please be informed that it was now pandemonium inside the plane with all passengers being terrified and shouting out for Jesus and Almighty Allah whilst struggling to break open windows and doors to escape from the fuelled plane which was on fire. All the windows were covered with mud and leaves and trees and we could not see anything outside until someone managed to break one of the windows of the emergency doors and we started to escape helter skelter from the plane.


Expecting the plane to burst into flames at any moment, we ran deep into the forest holding on to each other. To their credit, the Airports Authority and the Police started to drive towards the scene of the crash within seconds of the plane finally landing.Considering the distance they had to drive, they took several minutes to finally arrive at the swamp and found all the passengers already escaped from the plane but in a complete state of terror, pandemonium and emotional distress not to talk of bleeding limbs and other injuries.

 

Your Excellency, I have just been discharged from the hospital after four days. I left dozens of Sierra Leoneans still admitted in hospital. Many of them have spinal, skeletal and other such injuries like internal organ problems. I am fortunate having suffered only a broken tooth and soft tissue injury. I give thanks to the Almighty that I can once again sit down in front of a computer doing what I have been blessed to do. Disseminate Information worldwide through the Internet for the attention of the International World.


Your Excellency, most disappointingly one of the information I am going to disseminate is that, my government headed by you, is yet to make any official statement on the plane crash that had over 70 Sierra Leonean citizens on board. There were a few Gambians on board including a Gambian UNAMSIL Captain who was heading to The Gambia for a short break from his UNAMSIL duties. The Gambian Government of President Yahya Jammeh made adequate arrangements for the Gambians to receive medical treatment before flying them out to Gambia yesterday.There were 37 Guineans on board. The Guinean President Lansana Conteh sent two jets with a high powered delegation within 1 hour of the crash.One of the Presidential jets came with a top team of medical doctors.


But, Your Excellency, you might be surprised to learn that the Presidential team from President Lansana Conte only treated Guinean Citizens and then carted them off to Guinea. The doctors did not even address us Sierra Leoneans or try to console us. However, with my respect for you as my President, I was busy consoling my fellow passengers that they should rest assured that our own President, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah will soon send emissaries to us. I kept on assuring them all the way from the airport to Freetown for over three days until I gave up myself when I realised that I was just embarrassing myself to my fellow passengers with my assurances that my President will soon be making a statement.


So, 5 days since the crash, up till now, Sunday 15th August 2004, neither the Office of the President nor your Ministry of Transportation nor any government functionary has extended any condolence to us in any official capacity neither have you issued any statement. I am so ashamed and so disappointed in you.


Meanwhile, Hon. Ernest Koroma together with a full contingent of APC Parliamentarians and APC Stalwarts turned up at the hospitals to sympathise with us. Prominent citizens have been turning up at our different hospitals to sympathise with us. Religious Leaders have been pouring into our hospitals to pray with us and give thanks to the Almighty for the miracle he performed in saving our lives.


The new Mayor of Freetown, Winstanley Bankole Johnson was there to see that we were made comfortable and he held discussions with all the different doctors. Later, the Mayor sent his wife to come and visit us at the different hospitals where we were admitted. The Bankole Johnson family came laden with fruits, sanatogen high energy powder, milk, chocolates and flowers and they went from room to room consoling us and giving us food.


And from the SLPP and from my President? As they say in Krio, ONE BIG FAT YAING is all what we have heard from your government.

 

Your Excellency, I must here note that I have several friends in your government who personally called me up to extend their sympathy to me. But however, they were doing it on a personal basis to a friend of theirs.I am just one of 126 passengers on board a plane that crashed at Lungi Airport. What about the other passengers? What about the government as a whole? Are they not going to say anything as a government to their citizens? What about Prince Harding, the SLPP Secretary General and your Minister of Transport? Is he not going to tell the nation that an enquiry into the activities of the Civil Aviation Authority is underway? I am informed that he was on the Ghana Airways plane that had landing problems in the recent past and he immediately recommended to your Cabinet that the plane be grounded. Prince Harding was personally affected and he implemented measures based on his experience. However, what assurances do we now have that the Air Guinee crash which is a worse incident that the Prince Harding- GhanaAirways one or the one of November 2003 will not repeat itself? What measures is your government putting in place to ensure that the Civil Aviation Authority is thoroughly investigated?

 

Your Excellency, how can you stay silent at a time like this? I am totally disappointed in your government.You have let me down. You have let my fellow passengers down and this is an indication that those who say that your government is neither in touch with its citizenry nor does your government know what its duties are towards your citizens, might be quite right after all.


Your Excellency, whilst awaiting a reaction from your government, I end this letter by leaving you in the hands of the Almighty. May God Almighty continue to guide you to do the right thing for your citizens.


May God Almighty protect us all.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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