"AFCON 2023: Gambia Coach Describes Fear of Death on Aborted Flight to Ivory Coast"

A plane carrying the Gambia national football team had to make an emergency landing due to a sudden loss of oxygen during its flight to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations.

According to the Gambia Sports Federation, the chartered flight carrying the “Scorpions” returned to Banjul, the capital of Gambia, after just nine minutes in the air, when the crew detected technical problems.

Upon landing, preliminary investigations revealed a loss of cabin pressure and oxygen, the federation stated in a press release on Facebook.

Air Cote d’Ivoire, the airline operating the flight, is currently investigating the situation to determine the cause of the oxygen and pressure issues in the cabin.

The players were en route to participate in the Africa Cup in Ivory Coast, scheduled to begin on Saturday. This is the 34th edition of the biennial tournament, originally planned for June and July last year but postponed due to Ivory Coast’s tropical rainy season.

Gambia’s Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet, who was on the plane, told Belgian broadcaster VRT that the team had narrowly escaped death. “We all suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. Some players also did not wake up immediately after landing,” he said.

Gambian player Saidy Janko shared on Instagram that the lack of oxygen caused severe headaches and extreme dizziness, with people falling asleep within minutes of takeoff.

The federation stated that the team is expected to take another flight to Ivory Coast on Thursday afternoon and proceed to the town of Yamoussoukro, where some matches are scheduled to take place.

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Piers Potter


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