By Yunus S Saliu
It is 40 years down the lane when the helicopter carrying President, Sir Dawda Jawara and members of his delegation crash-landed near Brikama Ba, some 280 kilometers away from Banjul this caused the death of the former vice president of The Gambia, Mr. AB Njie, and few others in 1982.
Late President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara who was traveling with other members of his delegation, was among the survivors of the helicopter crash in 1982, others that survived the crash included the President Press Secretary, Jay Saidy, the Secretary-General, Professor Jabez Langley, and the pilot. But Sir Dawda Jawara’s close friend and confidant A B Njie who was the former vice president and Foreign Affairs Minister at the time died on spot.
It is worth knowing that most of these occupants of the helicopter, according to The Gambia News Bulleting issue of Friday 23rd April 1982, “ suffered minor injuries were flown to Dakar immediately while the rest, included the President, went to Bansang Hospital, then to the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul” for treatment.
The day of the incident was described as a “very sad day” by Gambians because the late president just survived a coup seven months earlier before the helicopter crash which was the reason he used the helicopter during his election campaign in the year under review.
According to gather facts, the former president was advised by the Senegalese security (soldiers) guiding him at the time to travel by air for security purposes taking into consideration his safety after the coup.
“To ensure his safety, the Senegalese army guiding him at that time thought it was unsafe for him to travel by land or in a car to do his campaign and therefore advised him to travel by helicopter as the Senegalese intelligent thought Kukoi Samba’s rebel might still be hiding in the bush to strike or attack him,” historian Hassoum Ceesay explained.
The crashed helicopter was a borrowed one to the Gambia government then by the former President Abdou Diouf of Senegal “but the helicopter was completely destroyed.”
According to the investigation, it was revealed that the crash was due to human error and when it crashed one of the blades fell off “while the pilot was commended because when the blade fell off the pilot ran the chopper into a tree to minimize the impact. According to investigation if he hadn’t done that nobody would have survived the crash, because the chopper would have exploded if crash-landed on the ground direct” historian Ceesay disclosed.
According to the Bulletin “, the helicopter crashed and landed between two ancient ‘tabo’ trees on the fence of a compound at the Bantaba of Brikamanding, a village one kilometer from Brikama Ba. It lay in a mess of broken parts, sticks, and wires. The door of the cockpit had flung open revealing the smashed dark interior. The main door too was ripped off hinges showing the damage to the passenger compartment. Three fence posts had pierced the underbelly of the