In 1989, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 carrying 155 passengers and 15 crew members exploded over the Sahara Desert. 18 years later, family members built a memorial shaped like a plane in Niger, to which Libya contributed $170 million.UTA Flight 772 was flying from Brazzaville in the People’s Republic of Congo, via N’Djamena in Chad, to Paris CDG airport in France.
Many of the passengers on board were VIP dignitaries, including Bonnie Pugh, wife of the American ambassador to Chad at the time, Robert L. Pugh, and the Chadian Planning Minister Mahamat Soumahila.
Just 46 minutes after leaving N’Djamena International Airport, the plane exploded near Bilma and Ténéré. Nobody survived.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) launched an investigation and subsequently discovered that Libyan terrorists had planted a suitcase bomb in the plane’s forward cargo.
Six men were tried and convicted in absentia by a French court.
Libya is said to have ordered the bombing to take revenge against the French for supporting Chad against the expansionist projects of Libya toward Chad. Gaddafi had grandiose visions of dominating all of Africa, and blamed both the U.S. and France for thwarting those ambitions.
The court in Paris awarded families of the victims varying sums of money, but a collective of relatives went on to form Les Familles du DC10 d’UTA, which signed an agreement on 9 January 2004 with the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations to receive $170 million or one million dollars for each victim.
Using most these funds, paid out by 2007, the family members worked with locals to build a memorial on the crash site in May and June that year.
Parts of the wreckage were still buried under the sand, including the DC-10’s right wing, which was mounted on the memorial’s northern point.
170 broken mirrors, each one representing one passenger, line the memorial’s circumference, and a plaque with each of the victims’ names was affixed to the upright wing.
Hundreds of dark rocks were trucked in from up to 70 miles away and laid out in the shape of a DC-10 inside a compass. The memorial is visible on Google Maps.
Although the plane crash marks a dark moment in history, this heartwarming memorial to the victims restores our faith in humanity.
For more information and photographs, visit Viral Nova, from where this post was adapted.