Sports

29 Years After Iwuanyanwu Nationale Plane Crash in Algeria, Alphonsus Dike Recounts Encounter

Head Coach of then Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Owerri now Heartland FC, Alphonsus Dike has recounted the unfortunate plane crash that involved the team in Algeria.

Recall that the chartered aircraft that conveyed the team after a continental competition in Tunisia crashed in Algeria enroute Nigeria, leaving two members of the team including the pilot, and two others dead while others survived.

Speaking with Wakawaka Sports Extra in an exclusive interview, Coach Dike attributed the crash to devilish act and some misfortune.

“Each time I remember tha experience, I just have cold shivers running down my spine and the only immediate response to that is to give glory to God because it was a rare case of people surviving plane crash. A lot of people lost their lives and it was quite unfortunate for such a crash of that magnitude.

“I attribute it to some misfortune, devilish act. We had finished playing a match even though we lost and it was a chartered flight owned by our proprietor then, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.

“We had paid all the landing fees and necessary fees. Immediately after the match, we just had a little shower and rushed down to the airport to board the flight so that we can leave Tunis Airspace as early as possible because the weather that period was foggy and not clear.

“We got to the airport, behold the officials of Tunis Airport delayed us for more than three hours and we were surprised. The pilot being a man of integrity and an experienced pilot in the country then.

“We all deliberated on that issue and looked how we can solve the problem. The amount they wanted us to pay, we contributed it in a travellers cheque and they said no. Incidentally, Okehialiam was in that flight and wanted to give them dollar cheque and they said no, that they needed cash.

“And nobody traveled with raw cash and we started pleading. They didn’t botch until barely few minutes after two hours of delay, they decided to accept the same travellers cheque they refused to accept earlier on. You could see devilish attitude in that situation. The pilot couldn’t refuel because of that drama.

“We took off and getting to Algeria Airspace, he now wanted to land there to refuel but the man at the control tower refused to give signal and we were stranded. We started hovering around the Algeria Airspace for close to one hour trying to get signal but the man switched off and left.

“So, he started discharging the little fuel that was left in the aircraft so that he could take a land. And each time he wanted to land, because the weather was very foggy, he wasn’t seeing clearly.

“He will just see the timer and run in opposite direction. He tried it severally and now saw little glimpse of tarmac. I’m sure he wasn’t too sure but unfortunately that’s when he must have discharged the little fuel he had.

“He landed and was rushing towards the tarmark but he didn’t know he was heading towards the petrol filling station in the airport and he just tried to avoid it and the pole in front of that building.

“Unfortunately, one of the wings cut the pool and the aircraft was really smashed. It was quite unfortunate. The pilot himself died immediately because the impact threw him out of the aircraft. His co-pilot the same and we lost the air hostess and two of our players.

“The thing was a wreck. Fortunately enough for us, some of us were able to come out and so many injured. The few others didn’t have a scratch. We had to stay in Algeria capital for about two days before arrangement was made to evacuate us.”

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