Gambia's coach says 'another half hour of flying and we would have been dead' after oxygen on their flight to the African Cup of Nations failed

Friday, January 12, 2024
 – Gambia coach, Tom Saintfiet has stated that the national team came within half an hour of death after their flight to the African Cup of Nations was forced to land due to lack of oxygen on Wednesday, January 10.

The squad and coaching staff were on a flight from the capital city of Banjul heading for the Ivory Coast for the tournament, which was due to take two and a half hours.

However, several players passed out shortly after boarding the plane, with the pilot forced to return to Banjul Airport just nine minutes after taking off.

Speaking about the incident, Saintfiet, a Belgian coach who has managed Gambia since 2018, said everyone on the flight could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning had the pilot not returned to the airport.

'We could all have been dead,' Saintfiet told the Belgian newspaper Nieuwsblad.

'We all fell asleep quickly, and after nine minutes, the pilot decided to return because there was no oxygen supply.

'Some players did not wake up immediately after landing. We almost got carbon monoxide poisoning.

'Another half hour of flight and we would all be dead.'

Gambia Football Federation president Lamin Kaba Bajo claimed there was no evidence for the claims the delegation could have been at risk of potential carbon monoxide poisoning.

'I never felt it and it's not clinically, scientifically or medically proven,' Kaba Bajo told the BBC.

'Those are individual observations and perceptions, but there was not anything like that. I was almost sitting next to the coach and I didn't see anyone collapse.

'I know that people when a plane takes off, they sleep.

'Some people were dozing, sleeping, but we landed safely. There was not a single incident, we all came down and boarded the bus to go back to the terminal.'

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