The Scorpions of Gambia were caught up in a terrifying incident on their flight to the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire on Wednesday evening.
The team was forced to return to the Banjul airport after nine minutes for an emergency landing as several of the players on board reportedly passed out.
Speaking to Nieuwsblad, Coach Tom Saintfiet said he had a short dream of how his life could have ended.
His words: ‘We could all have been dead. We all fell asleep quickly. Me, too. I had short dreams about how my life was done. Really and truly.
‘After nine minutes, the pilot decided to return because there was no oxygen supply. Some players did not wake up [until] immediately after landing.
‘We almost got carbon monoxide poisoning. Another half hour of flying and we would all have been dead.”
Young Boys full-back, Saidy Janko, shared a video of the team upon landing alongside a long message about the incident.
He wrote: “After travelling 32 hours in total from Saudi Arabia (Training Camp) to The Gambia with long layovers in Istanbul and Casablanca, we were supposed to fly from Gambia to Ivory Coast for the AFCON today.
“As soon as we entered the small plane that was hired to fly us, we noticed the immense heat that left us dripping in sweat. It was assured to us by the crew that the air condition would start once we are in the sky.
“The inhumane heat mixed with the occurring lack of oxygen left many people with strong headaches and extreme dizziness. Furthermore, people started falling deeply asleep minutes after entering the aircraft/takeoff.
“Whilst in the Air, the situation got worse, leaving the pilot with no other option, than initiating an emergency landing back in Banjul airport nine minutes after takeoff. Which happened successfully.
“If it wasn’t for this, the consequences could have been a lot worse !!!.. knowing what could have happened, if we would have been exposed to the situation for any longer – in an airplane, running out of oxygen.
“We are grateful that everyone is feeling well but this is a situation that has to be addressed going into the AFCON, as being only one of our obstacles on international duty.
“This is unacceptable, and such has to cease with immediate effect.”
According to the Daily Mail, a statement by the Gambian Football Federation read: ‘The Chartered Flight carrying the Scorpions to the African Cup of Nations has returned to Banjul due to technical problems.
The flight was nine minutes airborne when the crew realised and immediately requested to return to Banjul.
‘Upon landing, preliminary investigations indicated that there was loss of cabin pressure and oxygen.
‘However, the technical team of the operating company of the flight, Air Cote d’Ivoire, is further assessing the situation to establish what caused the lack of oxygen and cabin pressure.
‘In this regard, the team, including the players and staff, are now on their way to base at the Ocean Bay Hotel as they await further instructions.
‘It is important to note that every member of the delegation is safe and in sound health.’
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