Malawi’s Vice-President, Saulos Chilima, was among ten individuals tragically killed in a small military plane crash in the mountainous northern region of the country, President Lazarus Chakwera announced in a live televised address on Tuesday.

The aircraft, which lost contact with air traffic controllers on Monday, was instructed to return to Lilongwe’s capital due to adverse weather conditions. Despite these instructions, the plane never made it back.

“I’m deeply saddened, I’m sorry to inform you all that it has turned out to be a terrible tragedy. The search and rescue team has found the aircraft near a hill. They have found it completely destroyed with no survivors,” President Chakwera revealed.

President Chakwera expressed profound sorrow over the loss of Vice-President Chilima, emphasizing the significant impact of his passing on both his family and the nation. “Dr. Saulos Chilima was a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction, and a formidable vice-president,” Chakwera stated.

The ill-fated flight had seven passengers and three crew members aboard, all of whom perished upon impact. Among the deceased was former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri. The group was en route to the northern city of Mzuzu to attend the funeral of a former government minister.

Vice-President Chilima, aged 51, was serving his second term and was considered a strong contender for next year’s presidential election. His political career faced a hurdle in 2022 when he was arrested over graft allegations, charges which were dropped last month. Chilima had consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The military is currently in the process of transporting the remains of the crash victims back to Lilongwe. President Chakwera concluded his address by noting that funeral arrangements would be communicated in due course, urging the nation to unite in mourning and honoring the legacy of the late vice-president and other victims.